Since canning my tomato sauce last week, I've been dying to make something with it. The stuff is pure gold and cannot be wasted; so I wanted to make sure that whatever I made with my first jar of it was worth it. I decided to go a bit nuts and use some ingredients that I don't normally include, such as mushrooms and bell pepper. Notice anything missing from the picture below? No? Look closer...yeah, now you see, I don't have garlic. Can you believe it? I was actually out of garlic, and by the time I got all my stuff together, I didn't want to run back to the market. Un-friggin-believable...
|My kingdom for a clove of garlic!|
- Olive Oil
- Meat (optional)
- Tomato Sauce
- Tomato Puree (my home-canned original)
- Tomato Paste
- Diced Tomatoes (canned or fresh)
- Salt & Pepper
- Red Pepper Flake
- Dried Basil
- Dried Oregano
- Bay Leaf
- Sugar (optional)
- Mushrooms (optional)
- Bell Pepper (optional)
First thing I do is chop up my onion. I usually use a small white or yellow onion (depends on what's on sale), but feel free to use more or less, it's not going to mess up the sauce...it's all about personal taste. Now, if I had garlic, I would very thinly slice about 2 cloves. Sometimes I mince it, but I've gotten into paper-thin slices lately. Must be influenced from a late night watching Goodfellas a couple weeks ago. Ok, so you got the chopped up onion and garlic - now heat up some oil in a large pot and saute it. I usually let it go for about 5-10 minutes. I never timed it, but I know I never let them get caramelized, just soft and smelling delicious.
Next, if you would like to add meat, do it now. You can add ground beef, turkey, or whatever you like. I squeased 2 mild Italian sausages from their casings and dropped them in. Of course there is no picture of that as it just looks obscene. Now brown your meat in the onions, garlic, and oil until there's no more pink left. Yeah, yeah, I know it's going to boil for hours and cook regardless, but that's just how I do things.
Now, time to add your cans of tomato products. After adding each can, I usually fill the can about half-way with water, swish it around in the can, and dump the water into the sauce. This does 2 things: 1.) make sure you didn't miss any tomato goodness, and 2.) makes your sauce go further. Seriously, in this economy, we need all the help we can get. Mix all you tomato products together to get them incorporated with the onions, garlic, and meat. The tomato paste is a little hard to break up, don't worry about it too much, it will eventually make it's way through everything.
Get your sauce bubbling on the stove and then turn the heat down to low; cover the sauce half-way with the lid. After about the length of 1 episode of the Golden Girls, taste your sauce. Since I used sausage in mine and my super-spiced home-canned tomato puree, I didn't need much extra. I threw in a bay leaf* and a pinch of red pepper flake, and stirred it up. This is where your personal preferences come in. It is also here where you might need to add a tiny bit of sugar if your sauce is too acidic.
|Mamma mia! These 'a colors remind a'me of a'the old a'country!|
Here comes the fun part - drop in your veg products, in this case: sliced mushrooms and chopped bell pepper. Stir it all up and get it bubbling on low again. Sometimes I have sun-dried tomatoes on hand (also from my in-laws), and chop them up and throw them in as well. Now put that lid back on half-way and let it go. I tend to check on it every hour or so just to make sure it's going well...and not burning or bubbling over the edges. Not that anything like that has ever happened...
|Dark red, chunky, and thick - this was one of my best!|
Finally, you've tasted your sauce after hours of simmering, and you love it! Now what to do?** I poured mine over pan-fried polenta! Since I made the sauce from scratch, I didn't feel so bad about buying pre-made polenta from Trader Joe's...that's ok, right? I'm sure if my Italian Grandma was still alive, she'd think it was a great thing. Now go on, try your own sauce! It will be different than mine, since we have different tastes, but the formula is basically the same. Mangia!
* In my family, the bay leaf stays in the sauce, even when served. Most fancy folks on the television will tell you to remove it when the sauce is finished. My mom used to leave it in, and whoever found the bay leaf in their pasta "won the prize." What prize, you ask? There never was one, but we went along with it our entire lives, and I still have a habit of saying that now when I or my husband find a bay leaf in our food.
** You're going to have way more sauce than you actually need for 1 meal. I let mine cool down a bit, pour it into 1-quart containers, and freeze it. Next time you can't think of what to do for dinner, you have a homemade sauce waiting for you!