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Simple Tomato Sauce
Simple Tomato Sauce

Gluten Free Simple Tomato Sauce

Welcome to Friday. Pull up a chair, have an empanada.

Did I tell you that I’m writing another cookbook? I am. It’s all very exciting. And it’s totally because you guys have really been super supportive, and have bought the heck out of the first one. Keep buying it! Yay!

So thank you. Sincerely.

The manuscript is due February 1, 2012, and it’s slated for publication date Fall 2012. I think you’re really going to like it. It will be a true companion piece to Book 1.

Did you ever see the movie What Women Want, with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt? Me either. But not for lack of trying. I started it a few times, but it just didn’t take. It might be that I couldn’t watch it on account of its being really … stupid. But I’m not sure.

Perhaps the movie had some secret formula for what we women want (do we just get to pick one thing that we want? I have a list. Anyone else have a list?), but I’ll never know. At this point, I’d settle for some secret formula for how to avoid ever seeing the same 5 scenes of that movie in an endless loop every time I’m watching television and flipping through those middling channels, in the channel 30 to channel 50 range.

Isn’t there a name for that phenomenon – the one where you never really see the whole of a movie or television show, but instead always catch the same 5 to 10 minutes of one as you channel surf? I’m sure there’s a Sniglet for that. Not sure.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s perhaps because I’m getting old. The bad news about that: you don’t get my pop culture references, yet I insist on continuing to make them. The good news about that: you feel young and, therefore, superior. I dunno.

There’s so much I don’t know.

So even though I may not know What Women Want, I do have a fairly firm grasp of What Empanadas Want. They want fresh tomato sauce, combined with a few other goodies to make their favorite fillings. They’re relatively easy to please, empanadas. Unlike women, apparently.

Remember a couple days ago when we made Empanada Dough 2.0? Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember. Maybe you’re just getting old. It happens to the best of us.

What were we talking about?

Oh, right. Empanadas. First, a few notes about cooking empanadas. They are traditionally deep fried. I am a big fan of deep frying. It is way better for you than shallow frying, since frying at the proper temperature ensures that the food absorbs very little oil. But I tend to only want to deep fry it if I’m going to have a relatively large crowd, since there’s the matter of all that oil, and what to do with it after I am done deep frying. You have to strain it, and store it in a cool, dark place, and even then there are limits on how and for what purpose you can use it. Blah blah blah.

Enter stir frying.

In a wok.

Empanadas cook up super speedy quick, you don’t need much oil to get the job done, and they’re light and flaky.

The fillings go like this:

1 cup fresh tomato sauce, recipe below {plus 1 cup for dipping}
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded, or cooked ground beef
1 thick slice gluten-free bread, cubed and soaked in 1/4 cup warm milk, then drained slightly
1 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose gluten-free flour

To prepare the filling, simply place all the filling ingredients together in a large bowl, mix gently until well combined, and place about 2 teaspoons filling in the center of each round of empanada dough. Fold the dough in half to cover the filling, and press the edges of the pastry together to seal well. Stir fry in a neutral oil like canola oil, or place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper in an oven preheated to 400 degress Fahrenheit, and bake until browned, about 12 minutes. Serve with tomato sauce for dipping.

This tomato sauce couldn’t be more simple, and it’s a great way to breathe life into your Summer tomato bounty. In the winter, I make it with a 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, and it’s delicious, still. Expect to ruin your family for the jarred stuff.

What Empanadas Want
Recipe Type: Appetizer/Main
Author: Nicole @ Gluten-Free on a Shoestring.com
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 15 mins
Serves: 4 to 6
Fresh tomato marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or fine sea salt), plus more to taste
  • 3 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (about 5 large tomatoes)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tablespoon dried)
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the olive oil, onion, garlic and salt. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant, but without browning either (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the tomatoes, and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes are soft and the mixture is simmering (about 3 to 5). Add the sugar and the basil and oregano, and stir to combine. Cook, still stirring frequently, until the tomatoes are largely broken down, about another 3 to 4 minutes. Taste, then add more salt, in small increments, if desired.
  3. For a smooth sauce, blend with an immersion blender until you reach the consistency you like best.
  4. Use in chicken or beef empanada fillings, or with your favorite pasta.

You can substitute 1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes. Just chop them roughly, and add the tomatoes and their juice and cook just as you would fresh tomatoes. They will cook down more quickly than fresh tomatoes.


Love you. Mean it.
xoxo Nicole

  • leerose

    Can you make a Sweet Empanada Recipe? In our traditions growing up we never had a savory Empanada. Its not that common anymore in Mexico! I would GREATLY appreciate it, last Christmas was not the same without it! :)

    • Nicole

      Hi, leerose,
      Sounds like a good idea. These are Spanish savory empanadas, but I do make sweet empanadas sometimes. I usually make apple empanadas, or sometimes pumpkin in the Fall.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Kim

    Our family makes pumpkin empanadas at Christmas and I’m really going to miss them if I can’t figure out an alternative. Do you have a recipe for dough with spices in it like sugar, cinnamon to make it a dessert empanada.

    • Nicole

      Hi, Kim,
      You can easily use this dough to make pumpkin empanadas. Spice the filling, and you really don’t need to spice the dough. You could add a few tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar to the dough, though, if you’d like. You might have to balance the moisture, though, with a bit more cream.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Amanda

    On the Border has (or used to have, haven’t been there in FOREVER) some chocolate carmel nut empanadas that were damn good… they served them with ice cream… I wonder if you could put chocolate & caramel chips in for the filing and they would melt when you cook the empanada?

    ahhh yumminess!

    • Nicole

      Hi, Amanda,
      That sounds awesome! You might want to add some sweet creamy cheese, like mascarpone, to hold everything together inside. Otherwise, when they cool, the chocolate will be solid again before too long. For those, you might want to bake rather than stir fry, but either way I would sprinkle with powdered sugar right as they come out of the oven.
      Tell me how it goes!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Kadren

    Nicole, I have a question for you. I keep looking for how many servings your recipes serve. I know I must be missing it somewhere. I was looking to see how many empanadas one recipe of dough will make so I know if I have to double it for my family. :) Thank you!!!!!! Went to our Amish Orchard this afternoon and bought fresh blue berries and peaches. Thinking a pie or crisp is in order. :)


    • Nicole

      Hi, Kadren,
      If you look at each printable recipe, there is a legend toward the top that lists the recipe type, amount of prep time, cooking time, and servings. This recipe serves 4 to 6. Enjoy your fresh fruit!
      xoxo Nicole

      • Kadren

        Ahhh, thank you! Knew I was missing it. I’ve never printed off because I had run out of ink. I now found my ink stash and can have a printing party of all your recipes. :) The peaches smell divine!!!

        • Nicole

          Hi, Kadren,
          It’s in tiny print, so it’s kind of easy to miss. That is the Easy Recipe function, which makes the recipe searchable on Google Recipe search, but it’s really super temperamental, so I’m afraid to mess with it at all. In fact, I think I’m afraid of it altogether!
          xoxo Nicole

      • Nicole

        Help! I’m making your banana pancake muffins and the batter is not batter but rather crumbly like a crust…I’m assuming it needs more liquid but I’ve followed the recipe precisely! It calls for 1/2 c. milk and 1 extra large egg. Aside from the small amt. of vinegar and butter…is this right? Hoping you are on here this morning!

        • Nicole

          Hi, Other Nicole,
          I’m here! I’m so sorry. The recipe has an editing error, and it should read 1 1/2 cups milk, not 1/2 cup milk. We are aware of the error and it will be corrected in subsequent printings (not that that helps you any). Again, please accept my sincere apologies — and add another cup of milk to the batter!
          xoxo This {Apologetic} Nicole

          • Nicole

            Thanks for responding…I clued in and just added milk until it looked like pancake batter and they turned out GREAT! I also sprinkled a little brown sugar on top of them before I baked them. My tip to anyone else would be to definitely wait and let them cool no matter how tempting they are because the bananas will fall right out if you take them out of the muffin tin too hot ;^) I think they taste even better cold anyway! Have you ever tried them with blueberries? Thanks again for another hit!

          • Nicole

            Hi, Other Nicole,
            I’m so glad you ‘clued in,’ as you say! That’s a great tip – to be sure to let them cool before removing them. And yes — I have definitely made them with blueberries. Just be sure to toss the blueberries in a bit of flour before adding them, to ensure that they don’t just sink to the bottom of the muffin. So glad you enjoyed them – and that you found your way despite the editing error!
            xoxo This Nicole

  • http://www.storystones.com Ruthe

    Hi Nichole…how are you today? Staying cool? It’s so hot over here…there’s standing room only at the bird bath :)
    Thanks for the marinara sauce recipe. It is sooo good! My neighbor has 4 gardens (we live in the country, 45 acres,) and he gave us a whole mess of beans and Roma tomatoes. The perfect tomato for this marinara sauce. I have my own gf flour mix, but I want to make the empanadas using the better batter flour. I ordered some Wednesday so I’ll just have to wait til the flour gets here. So, next week I’ll try your delicious sounding recipe. Stay cool. xoxo

    • Nicole

      Hi, Ruthe,
      It’s so nice to hear from you.
      I barely left the house at all today, it was so hot. That, and I was in the kitchen (my version of an office) all day, trying to make something fabulous to share with you. :) I love the bird bath metaphor! I might have to steal that (with attribution, of course).
      I’m so jealous of your mess of beans and tomatoes. I hear that, and I think — add some cilantro, some chopped red onion, and you’ve got some gorgeous salsa. Lovely. I was just telling my husband today that a tomato bounty is never burdensome (unlike some other garden offerings, which can become a chore, like zucchini). Between salsa, salads and marinara sauce, tomatoes always have a seat at my table.
      I’d love to hear how the empanadas turn out for you, when you are able to make them. That dough is one of my very favorite roll-out doughs. It might even be my true favorite. It is so very smooth and strong, and I love that it works best when it rests at room temperature (rather than cold, like many other roll-out doughs), and only gets more pliable as you re-roll the scraps.
      Save me a seat at the bird bath. See you there!
      xoxo Nicole

  • http://www.paulabakes.com Paula

    Hi Nicole,
    Thank you for your empanada dough. I tried it today, and although it was as you say smooth and rolled out perfectly…it did not come out flaky, but more chewy and crispy. Maybe I kneaded it too much. I will try it again sometime. I wanted to try using it for Jamaican patties. Also I found it to be a bland dough not doing the filling justice, although my vegetable filling on its own was tasty. Jamaican patties are not used with a dipping sauce or salsa like some empanadas. Anyway my search will continue to find a tasty dough for the pattie fillings, but I will give yours another go with a meat filling next time.
    Thanks for your website..it is one of my favorite sites for gluten-free recipes. Keep up the great work!


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  • Sarah D

    I just wanted to tell you, I ordered a copy of your book from Amazon for my sis and her new hubby and they’re almost out of your book. I’m so excited for you that it’s selling so well!

    • Nicole

      Hi, Sarah,
      I’m glad you decided to go ahead and order the book for your sister and brother in law. I think it’s a great gift, but I might be a bit biased. :)
      Thank you for being excited about the book sales. I hope you feel like you have had a hand in that, because you really have!
      xoxo Nicole

      • Sarah D

        Awwww….you’re so sweet! I can’t help but be excited and tell everyone. You’ve transformed (now two) of my children! I’m just so grateful that I have to share. :)

  • Lorena

    I´ll try to cook them at oven!!

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