Thursday, October 22, 2015

Red Sauce and Pasta

The end of summer.  It's official at our house.  The sprinkler guys blew out our system this morning  To celebrate the end, the wife and I ate the last of my homemade lasagna.   Our good neighbor, Paul, was generous with his prolific tomatoes.  We ate many fresh salads, but finally used a couple of batches to make a chunky garden sauce.

Fresh tomato red sauce
2 pounds of fresh tomatoes - any kind
4-6 leaves of fresh basil
1 onion
1 -2 cloves of garlic
1 tbls sugar
1 tbls olive oil.
Easy stuff. Cut an X in the bottom of the tomatoes. Put a pot of water on to boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for 60 to 90 seconds. (It takes a bit longer at high altitudes). Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place tomatoes in the ice water.

Spaghetti and meat balls

Meanwhile... for spaghetti: chop and cook an onion in a 3 or 4 quart pan. When the onion is soft and translucent, add as much garlic as you like.

The skin should peel right off the tomatoes. Discard skin and cut out the stem top. Add the tomatoes to the pan. Chop or crush them and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Cooking this for a long time would probably result in a traditional sort of sauce.  But, we are after a fresh garden taste.  After about 30 minutes remove from heat and blend.  A stick blender works well in this situation.  Don't try for a smooth sauce - leave it a bit chunky.

It's good to go right now.  I had some homemade meatballs in the freezer and some cooked Italian sausage. I added those to the sauce and let it simmer until everything was hot.  Serve over spaghetti noodles. (I had some of those in the freezer, too.)  The sauce will soak into the pasta making a very satisfying dish.


I used the second batch of sauce to make lasagna.  Start by cooking some onion garlic and hamburger in a 3 or 4 quart pot.

Prepare the tomatoes using the same methods detailed above.  When the hamburger is browned, drain as much fat as you care to and add the prepared tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes with a spoon against the side of the pot.  Let he sauce simmer. This sauce should be a bit thicker than the spaghetti sauce.

Rather than pre-cooking the lasagna noodles, soak them in warm water.  I used the lasagna pan. It leaves the noodles soft and they will not stick together. (This can be done with any kind of dried pasta. It works well for any type of casserole)

To build the dish start with a non-stick spray and the few spoons full of meat sauce.on the bottom of the pan. Next add a layer of noodles, a layer of cottage cheese (it's what I had - you could use ricotta), and a layer of mozzarella cheese. Top with a layer of meat sauce.  Add another layer of noodles, cottage cheese and - whoops - I ran out of mozzarella cheese. So I added a layer of 4 cheese Mexican blend and a final layer of meat sauce.  I had some provolone cheese slices in the deli drawer.  I added those and a good sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.  Cover the pan in foil and bake 30-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Nancy said it was the best lasagna she ever had.

I know the lack of detail in these recipes can be frustrating, but cooking should not be a chemistry lab.  It's about using ingredients on hand along with your intuition and taste to make something good.