Thursday, September 6, 2007

To Avoid Cat Food Red Sauce

Easy Tomato Sauce

28 oz crushed tomatoes in liquid store bought or homemade*
4 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp red pepper flakes
16 oz fresh mushrooms (portabella or button)
2 lbs zucchini
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Your favorite pasta
Optional: Chopped basil

*Homemade crushed tomatoes: cut a shallow X in the bottoms of 1.5 lbs tomatoes, boil for 2 minutes then put in ice bath until cool. The skin will peel off easily, then just crush the skinned tomatoes in a bowl with your hands, or a potato masher, or chop them up on a cutting board.

Strain the crushed tomatoes until most of the liquid is separated, you’ll get about 2 cups worth of solids, reserve liquid. Mince or press garlic and sauté with red pepper flakes in 3 tbsp of the olive oil for 2 minutes on med low heat until garlic is lightly browned and smells good. Add the solids from the strained crushed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes, don’t add liquid at this stage. Add the basil if you’re using it.

Chop zucchini to bite size cubes (quarter length wise and then cut across about ¾”) with skin on. Slice mushrooms. Sautee zucchini in 3 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper over med heat for 3-5 minutes until nicely browned and crisp tender. Add zucchini and any liquid in the pan to sauce. In zucchini pan add 2 more tbsp olive oil and sauté the mushrooms again with salt and pepper, until moisture is released from the mushrooms and they are soft. Add the mushrooms and all their liquid to the sauce and stir. If the sauce is still too dry add a few tbsp of the reserved tomato liquid. Note, this is not meant to be a runny sauce, you want it to stick to the pasta when it’s mixed in.

Cook some fettuccini or angel hair, or even penne in salted boiling water. Drain thoroughly (don’t rinse) and add to the sauce in the pan. Pour 2-3 tbsp olive oil on the pasta and combine with the sauce. Add ¼ cup (or a little more if you like) grated parmesan cheese.

Notes: You can, of course, cook the zucchini and mushrooms at the same time in the same pan if you have one that is big enough. Also, go easy on the salt when seasoning each stage, the parmesan at the end will add quite a bit of seasoning. Instead of zucchini and mushrooms you could use eggplant, yellow squash, broccoli, bell peppers, Italian sausage, grilled chicken, pretty much anything you have laying around that you would want to eat in a tomato sauce. Take a trip to your local farmers market, produce is usually cheaper (and much better) than the chain grocery store offerings because it hasn’t traveled as far.

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