A CookBook Recipes & Other Stuff or How to Keep the Kids from Developing Beriberi After They've Moved Away From Home

Friday, June 28, 2013

Tomato Sauce

This is a good basic tomato sauce - I would double it when going to the trouble of making it - you can always freeze what you don't use! It comes from Hedonia and it's really nice to make on a day when you're sitting around the house with nothing much to do ...

and if you're going to all this trouble - make a double batch and freeze some

  • 1/2 lb button mushrooms, finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely minced
  • several cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • Sausage, sweet and/or hot
  • 1 26-oz box Pomi strained tomatoes, or one 29-oz can tomato puree (I prefer Contadina)
  • 1 6-oz box tomato paste (again, Contadina, please)
  • Olive oil
  • Splash of wine (red or white, whatever you prefer)
  • Stock or water
  • salt, pepper, oregano, basil
In a large Dutch oven, brown the sausage in a small amount of olive oil on all sides, and set aside.

Add the onion and garlic -- just enough to cover the bottom of the pan -- adding oil as necessary to keep from sticking or burning.

Cook until translucent, and scoop out and set aside. Repeat with the remaining onion and garlic, if necessary, until done. Add the mushrooms in the same fashion, cooking only enough at a time to cover the bottom of the pan, until dark brown and highly aromatic.

Once the last of the mushrooms are cooked, reintroduce all the previously cooked mushrooms, onion and garlic. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and a splash of wine.

Bring to a low boil, cover most of the way and reduce the heat to low. Keep at a low simmer, adding stock or water as necessary and stirring every 15-20 minutes. Be sure to scrape down the sides!

So when is adding more liquid necessary? Well, if instead of dainty little bubbles percolating to the surface of your sauce you get hoary, gloppy, volcanic GLOOPS, you might want to thin it out. Conversely, if the top of the sauce looks watery or transparent, it needs to cook down more. But stirring is of the essence, or you will end up with a layer of water over a layer of tomato mud. And that's no good.

Anyway, go on like this for, oh, three hours. Maybe more, maybe less. How do you know when it's done? I hate to be vague, but you will know. As if by some kind of pazzo alchemy, the sauce will magically begin to change. The color will turn more ruddy and brownish, and the aroma will become deeper and more savory. And the sauce -- if you've been stirring it! -- will take on a consistent, gravy-like texture. I mean, sauce-like.

Season to taste, reintroduce the meat if you used it, and cook another 20-30 minutes to meld the flavors. It's pretty good the day you make it, but it's always better at least a day later.

Spinach and Sausage Stuffed Shells

These are pretty much as I copied them from Simply Recipes:

You can mess with them as you like - use hot sausages, leave out the basil,  ...

  • 1 12-ounce package jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 16-ounces ricotta cheese
  • Mozzarella   - about 8 oz
  • 10-ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, chopped further (or 10 ounces chopped fresh spinach)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can tomatoes with herbs, including the liquid, tomatoes broken up (or your favorite tomato or pasta sauce - like the one from Hedonia)

1 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 teaspoon salt per quart of water). Cook the pasta shells according to the instructions on the package. Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.

2 Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking up the sausage into smaller bits. Cook sausage until cooked through, and no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute more. Remove pan from heat.

3 Beat the egg lightly in a large bowl. Mix in the ricotta, half the mozzarella, chopped spinach, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, basil, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and sausage mixture. Fill each cooked pasta shell with some of the ricotta, spinach, sausage mixture.

At this point you can make ahead, to freeze (up to four months) or refrigerate before cooking.

4 Spread 1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes over the bottom of each of the baking dishes. Arrange the stuffed pasta shells in the dishes.  Spread the remaining tomatoes over the top of the pasta shells.

5 Heat oven to 375°F. Cover the pans with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and mozzarella, bake uncovered for 10 more minutes.