Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pasta Sauce - a totally Random Thing Thursday

I am on the brink of losing my mind making minis and swap items this week.  To make a long story short, I am in the middle of making my 3rd mini for the Spring Fling Swap and my giveaway minis, and I just finished up my craft item for the Outlander swap (sharing tomorrow!!).  I am nearly completely burnt out.

So today, I have stepped away from my sewing machine, and I'm making roasted vegetable pasta sauce.

Pasta Sauce in progress

This isn't a food blog, which makes this a totally random post, but I thought I would share while my sauce is simmering away.

This recipe isn't even a recipe.  It is more like a process, and it is extremely flexible!  Time is the main ingredient.  I usually make this on a Sunday, or any day I have to wait around for 6 hours for the cable guy to show up.  Here's how I do it.

Ingredients:

  • Assorted vegetables for roasting - have at least 50% be "red"
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Minced garlic - 2 TBSP up to 1/4 cup based on taste
  • 2 or 3 cans of Organic diced tomatoes
  • Assorted dried herbs - oregano, parsley, chopped rosemary, basil....
  • can of chopped beets (optional)


Roasting vegetables:

I go to the store and pick out whatever vegetables look good, and especially the ones my kids won't eat in normal form: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, celery, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower are all good choices.  Then into my basket go a few pounds of roma tomatoes, red peppers (sometimes yellow and orange ones too), and at least 2 pints of those tiny grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (these are key as they really pack a lot of tomato flavor in a small package) add more if you really like tomato flavor.  You want your mix of veggies to be about half "red". Absolutely hate eggplant?  Leave it out.  This recipe is flexible!  Put whatever you want into it.  Add jalapenos, leave out the broccoli.  Any veggie that you have heard of roasting is fine.  Lettuce and cabbage, not so much, but hey, give it a try if you want.  It's your sauce!  When I get home, I add in whatever veggies are in the crisper drawer that I know I will likely get to use before they go bad (this is usually a jumbo sized bag of baby carrots and some more broccoli).

When I get home, I start chopping the veggies up into about 1 inch pieces, batching them according to kind (this just helps things stay approximately the same size), then I spread the chopped veggies on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray, I drizzle some olive oil on them and sprinkle them with a good amount of kosher salt and some pepper.  I roast them in a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes, give or take, until the edges of the veggies are brown, but not completely burnt.  The time varies for each type of vegetable. I find the roma tomatoes actually take a little longer because they have so much water in them.  The red peppers take less time.  As they come out of the oven, I put them in a bowl to cool, then I load up the sheet pan with a different type of veggie and start roasting them.  I usually have 2 sheet pans in the oven at the same time, each with its own one type of veggie.

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When the veggies are cool, I put them in the food processor and puree them (depending on the veggie, you might need to add a little water), then I stick them in a stock pot on the stove.  This frees up the bowl for the next set of veggies coming out of the oven.  I continue the process of putting more veggies in the oven, pureeing the ones that came out, and adding to the stock pot.   I don't wash my sheet pan, my bowl, or my processor until the very end.

It helps to have a friend "push the button" for you.

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The Sauce:

Once I have a batch or two of pureed veggies, I set the heat on the stock pot on low.  I add a lot of minced garlic.  My family likes garlic and we buy it already minced, so I am not joking when I say I add about 1/4 cup.  Mind you, this is also a really big pot of sauce.  I also add the canned organic diced tomatoes with the juice.  With all that pureed texture in there, it is nice to have a few bits of tomato in your sauce.  Here is where I also go through my spice cabinet and pick out any herbs that sound/smell Italian.  Dried oregano is a must, but I will also add any dried parsley, chopped rosemary, basil, marjoram, etc.  As you know, spices and herbs loose their potency the longer they are in your cabinet, so don't be shy about throwing them into the sauce.  I add as much as 4 tbsp of oregano, and about 2 tbsp of the others.  Stir it in!  I also add in about 2 tbsp more kosher salt and another tsp of pepper.  If you are on a low salt diet, you can skip this extra salting, after all we did salt our veggies when we roasted them, but if my sauce is tasting a little bland at this point, salt will help.

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**see note about water below

Take a look at your sauce, does it look a little brown?  I don't know about you, but I don't really enjoy eating a lot of brown food no matter how good it tastes.  In art class we learn that when we mix paints from the warm color family with paints from the cool color family, we essentially make "mud".  This is true with veggies too.  Your eggplant, zucchini and broccoli are probably to blame, but I am too lazy to peel my veggies and the skin has a bunch of nutrients that I want my kids and husband to eat.  So I found that adding a pureed can of beets with the juice from the can, into the sauce perks that color right up to a nice reddish orange. Totally edible.  When I have time, I even roast my own beets for this process, but I don't always find quality beets at the market, and the canned ones have a bunch of extra juice that is a lovely red.  Don't worry, the beets don't add too much sweetness.

Put the lid on!  This sauce bubbles, ask me how I know.

I let the sauce simmer on the stove on the low heat setting, anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, with occasional stirring.  Everything is essentially cooked, so if you are running short on time at this point, 30 minutes is plenty of time for the flavors to get to know each other.  If you have more time, let it keep simmering.  It is only going to get better.

Now what?:

I usually reserve enough for tonight's meal and freeze the rest in quart sized freezer bags that I lay flat in the freezer (makes for easier defrosting if they are flattened and they take up less space in the freezer this way).   Let your sauce cool a bit on the stove before putting into the freezer bags. When I need some healthy sauce, I just take out a bag and let it defrost in a sink of water for a bit.

While I call this "pasta sauce" because that is what we primarily use it for, it can go into other recipes.  I often sneak it into our taco meat.  That way my kids and husband are getting a little bit of veggies when they only put meat and cheese into their tortillas.  It is also great to add to soups or chilis for a bit of a flavor boost.  It can be used in really any recipe that calls for some kind of tomato sauce - chicken parmesan, great in lasagna, pizza, etc.  I also add it to my pot roasts.  I'm sure you will find a hundred places to put it.


**A note about water.  This sauce comes out pretty thick because of all those pureed veggies.  Because I freeze most of it when I make it, I don't add too much water to the stock pot.  Instead, I add water when I am using the sauce in a recipe.  That way I can get it to the consistency I want for the recipe I am making.  For example, we like our spaghetti sauce to be pretty wet, but in lasagna, I want it more thick so the layers hold together better.



Well, it is about time for me to start bagging up my sauce.  I hope you enjoyed this totally random thing this Thursday.

Thanks for reading,

Jen






4 comments:

  1. The sauce sounds very tasty and handy to have portions in the freezer. This would also be good for my grandchildren as they are so picky with certain veggies. Great ideas and method. Thank you for posting this.

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  2. I can almost smell that sauce from here Jen :) Looks delicious!

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  3. Sounds absolutely delicious and a great way to get veggies in picky eaters... I will have to give this a go.

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  4. Mmmmm, sounds like the way I make soup, which I haven't done in ages, thanks for the inspiration, and for the beetroot tip!

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