Dinner Plans: Tomato Sauce

Make 3 Delicious Meals From 1 Batch of Tomato Sauce

Simple Marinara Tomato Sauce

 The Spruce

There's nothing quite like homemade tomato sauce. Even though you can buy it by the jar-full at the grocery store, it doesn't hold a candle to the kind you make at home. Plus, it makes excellent leftovers. Make up a big batch on the weekend and use the leftovers to make two more tasty dinners during the week.

Game Plan

Prep Time: 2 hours

  1. Make a triple batch of tomato sauce (about 7 cups) and use 3 cups to make stuffed cabbage rolls.
  2. Reserve the leftovers. Add 2 cups to one container and label "rigatoni bake," add the remaining tomato sauce (about 2 cups) to another container and label "meatballs."
  3. Cook the beef and veggies with a little water for the rigatoni bake until cooked through and tender. Store in a container in the fridge.
  4. Prepare the meatballs and store, uncooked, in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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Watch How Easy It Is to Make Your Own Marinara

Prep Day Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Homemade tomato sauce is a perfect weekend project. Make a double batch of simple marinara tomato sauce, and use some to make delicious stuffed cabbage rolls. Let the sauce bubble away while you blanch the cabbage and assemble the beef filling.

Cabbage Rolls
The Spruce

Getting Dinner on the Table

  • Replace the canned tomato sauce and tomatoes in the recipe with 3 cups of your tomato sauce. Add the sugar and vinegar.
  • To save time, freeze a whole head of cabbage overnight. Take it out in the morning and allow several hours to thaw. The leaves will peel away easily and will be flexible enough to stuff with no blanching required.

Rigatoni Bake With Ground Beef and Cheese Night

Time: 35 minutes

Everyone wants to dig their fork into this pasta bake with beef and cheese after a long day. Replace the beef with turkey or vegetarian beef crumbles, and round out the meal with sautéed spinach.

Rigatoni Bake
Rigatoni Bake. The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Getting Dinner on the Table

  • Replace the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and water with 2 cups of leftover tomato sauce.
  • The veggies are all cooked with the meat on prep day to save time and effort. All you have to do is cook the pasta, combine it with the meat mixture and sauce, top with cheese, and bake.
  • Cook the spinach on the stovetop while the pasta bakes in the oven.
  • Get ahead on prep day: Par cook the pasta to al dente, chill, and store until you are ready to assemble the dish.

Italian Meatballs Night

Time: 30 minutes

Homemade meatballs with your homemade sauce is a simple meal with lots of flavor. Everyone will think you left work early to put this meal together, but thanks to some crafty prep, it only takes a few minutes to assemble. Coat the cooked meatballs in your leftover sauce and serve with store-bought crusty bread and a simple salad, like tomato, cucumber, and corn salad.

Italian Meatballs
The Spruce / Diana Rattray 

Getting Dinner on the Table

  • Broil or pan-fry your assembled meatballs. Drop them in your leftover tomato sauce and simmer on low, with the lid on, for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, slice some crusty bread and toss together a fresh salad.
  • Meatballs can also be made in a slow cooker for a hands-off dinner. Replace the sauce ingredients in this recipe with your leftover sauce and 1/2 cup of water or broth.
  • Get ahead on prep day: Make and cook the meatballs ahead of time. Reheat them at mealtime and coat with the warm sauce.

Essential Info

Making quick weeknight dinners is easier when you start with a few building blocks. Dinner Plans is a realistic roadmap to help you achieve that goal, by putting in a few hours of work (planning, shopping, and prepping) at the outset. Preparing a big batch of one ingredient (protein, vegetables, or grains) gives you the flexibility to plan a variety of meals. And who knows? You just might discover your new favorite weeknight recipe in the process!

Show everyone how together you are: Instagram your meal prep photos and tag them #thespruceeats.