Friday, August 10, 2012

When the tomatoes need to be cooked now

We all have busy lives so we don’t always get into our gardens the minute something is ready to harvest. This week when I filled my basket with tomatoes, some of them needed to be cooked immediately. If a tomato is split or has a soft spot and it sits in the kitchen window too long (that’s where I keep them until there’s enough to can) they will attract fruit flies. The same is true of any other fruit or vegetables left on a counter. To avoid that problem, I decided to make a batch of pasta sauce.

By the time I had picked the tomatoes there wasn’t time to complete the sauce. What follows is a very rough two-day recipe for making a simple sauce from fresh produce and herbs. You could, of course, make it in one day but sometimes sauces deepen their flavor if left in the refrigerator overnight.  I apologize in advance for not being more exact with the recipe; it leaves lots of room for creativity! You’ll want to use the proportions of ingredients that are right for the amount of tomatoes you have.

Easy pasta sauce

Day 1 (takes 1 hour or so)

Chop ½ onion and 2 carrots. Sautee in olive oil in a large skillet or pot (that has a lid) that will hold all of the tomatoes you have. Smash two cloves of garlic then chop and add to the pan.

While the onion and carrots are slowly sautéing, chop 12 or so ripe tomatoes. Add them to the pan. Lightly salt and cook. Add ½ cup of red wine. Bring to a nice boil then turn down to simmer. Taste to see if you need to add sugar. I sprinkled just a little (no more than ¼ cup) over the top then stir it in.

Chop a big handful of fresh basil and add along with other herbs you like. I added dried marjoram, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, salt and a sprinkle of red pepper to give heat.  Turn off, cool then put on lid and store in refrigerator.

Day 2 (takes 30 minutes)

Warm the sauce base.

In another pan, brown ½ - 1 pound sweet Italian sausage. Chop green pepper and add to sausage. Chop 2/3 cup zucchini and add. Salt lightly. 

While that is cooking, boil salted pasta water and add pasta.

Drain fat from sausage pan, add to sauce and stir. Add ½ cup fresh parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you have a leftover rind of Parmesan, chop it and add it. That will give you wonderful little bites of Parmesan in your dish.

When the pasta is done, spoon it onto the top of the sauce. Grate Romano cheese onto the pasta then stir. Grate more cheese onto the top of the dish and serve.

By the way, I know this might be some sort of sacrilege to the Italians, but I had a little bit of two different types of pasta leftover from earlier meals (bowtie and penne) so I mixed them for this dish. You can see that in the photo.

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