Weekending Up North: Italian Saturdays

Paul and I headed north for the weekend, and rather than take our usual Saturday night meal at Lulu's, we decided to stay in Saturday and Sunday nights.

My friend Gina is always raving about awesome "red sauce" that her husband Ryan makes. He was kind enough to freeze a little for me this fall when he put up just a few too many tomatoes for winter. It is nestled safely in my freezer currently, but while I wait to experience that awesomeness, I've been trying to cook up a little of my own.

Saturday was the second time I made my red sauce. I used Mario Batali's Basic Tomato Sauce as a starting point and just adjusted my ingredients a bit. For this batch, I used a can of peeled tomatoes (28z) and 1# of romas, copped, gutted and smushed. I supplemented the missing juices and sauce with about a cup of Malbec. The base of the sauce is a mirepoix, minus celery, plus garlic. I shredded the carrot this time (the first time it was a fine dice) and sauteed the veggies with some olive oil. Rather than Batali's heavily "thymed" recipe, I shook up my spices a bit. I used a heaping tablespoon of Herbs de Provence and then a shake or two of sea salt, and tons of freshly ground black pepper. What I FORGOT to do with this batch that made the last one so great was to thrown in a sprig of fresh rosemary while the sauce thickened. That extra spicing gives this simple sauce a really tasty kick.

I also pureed a little more than half of the sauce in the blender and mixed it back into the chunky portion. This is the texture I prefer in my tomato sauce...plus, it takes care of the extra skins from the fresh tomatoes.

Mine was not nearly this "chunky," but it's pretty!
Saturday this was served with linguini and pan fried eggplant-- sort of an eggplant parm pasta, I guess. The eggplant was a no brainer-- peel, chop into 1in. pieces, dip in soy milk, toss with magical breading from Refresh (nutritional yeast, wheat germ and garlic powder), and fry in just a smidge of oil until golden and crispy. A delicious meal, on the whole.

We used the sauce again for lunch on Monday, and it was (as could be expected) even better. I even had it Wednesday for lunch over cous cous. Am I the only person in this world who loves left overs? Sometimes I feel like it...

One trick I learned in making fresh tomato sauce in my few attempts so far...it gets this orange-ish color rather than maintaining the rich red of the fresh tomatoes. Solution? Roast a medium or small beet until tender and puree it with your sauce-- it brightens the color like magic!

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