The Pandemic Pantry – Basic Quick Tomato Sauce

 

“We’re cleaning out the freezer.  We have plenty of leftovers to eat up.”

…said She Who Must Be Obeyed.  Since this Executive Order was issued the frozen stockpile of meals has been gradually dwindling.  Last night’s dinner was a mash up meal that used some leftover frozen ricotta/chicken/spinach filling and a freshly made Alfredo sauce.  The leftover ricotta filling was the result of making far too much for cannelloni a few weeks ago.  Then last night I made too much Farfalle and now I’m staring at the reality of having leftover leftovers for lunch today.

So I thought to myself, Self…wouldn’t this be good with some tomato sauce?  Of course I answered to myself and went to an old favorite cookbook for inspiration.  My quick tomato sauce is inspired by a recipe from:

Cooking from an Italian Garden Paperback –
by Paola Scaravelli and Jon Cohen

Paperback: 372 pages
Publisher: Harvest Books (November 15, 1985)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0156225921
ISBN-13: 978-0156225922

But as I have discovered over the years I’ve accidentally created my own recipe.  Here it is.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery rib, tiny dice
  • 1 small carrot, tiny dice
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • pinch dried oregano
  • pinch dried basil
  • pinch dried parsley
  • a splash of white wine
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can organic stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, lower the heat to medium and saute the carrot and celery until translucent.
  2. Sprinkle the herbs and vegetable powders in the pan and saute briefly.
  3. Add a splash of wine to de-glaze the pan.
  4. Add the tin of tomatoes and bring to a boil.
  5. Drop the heat down to low.
  6. When the tomatoes start to soften begin crushing them with the flat side of a wooden spoon.
  7. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
  8. Adjust your seasonings.  Add sugar.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve over leftover leftovers (freshly made pasta works too).

Tips

Sugar is only needed to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes.  You might not need any sugar at all.  I wanted to use as many pantry items as possible.  If you feel you can spare a fresh onion or fresh clove of garlic, use them.  The wine is a luxury but can probably be eliminated if you don’t have an open bottle in the fridge. Taste as you go because stewed tomatoes are sweeter than plain canned tomatoes and come already seasoned.

Here’s a list of pantry items.  Hopefully you have many if not all on hand as we shelter in place.

Pandemic Pantry Items

  • Canned tomatoes in 14.5 and 28 ounce cans.  Diced, crushed, diced with green chilies and stewed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Brown and white sugar
  • Dried oregano, basil, and parsley
  • Onion and garlic powders
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Dried pastas

Stay safe, stay well.

 

 

Turkey Ragu 2

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This recipe is Tiny Taste Tester Approved.

One of the more interesting aspects of capturing your recipes online is seeing how your recipes change over time.

“I made your sauce.  I followed the recipe but it doesn’t taste the same.

So I look at my original Turkey Ragu recipe.  Sure enough, I made it differently today.  Too many episodes of Food Network in your head changes your recipes.  Just my opinion but I’m sticking with it.

So I look at The Boss and say, “How about a fresh batch of meat sauce?”

And this is how I made it today with the changes from Ragu One in bold.

Turkey Ragu 2

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced plus 1/2 to 1 T garlic granules

1/2 cup sweet onion, diced

1 medium carrot, fine dice

1 celery stalk, fine dice

1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 fresh green pepper, finely diced

1 pound ground turkey (use 93/7)

2 T dried basil

1 T dried oregano

Pinch of Thyme

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup white wine

1 28 oz can tomatoes diced San Marzano style with juice

1 28 oz can tomatoes, crushed

1 6 oz can tomato paste

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Brown sugar

1.  Heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over high heat in a large saucepot.  I prefer the taste of Spanish olive oils and Borges is my favorite.  If you can’t find Borges look for the Star brand which is made by the same company.  Substitute your favorite regular olive oil if desired.

2.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery and green pepper.  Saute for a few minutes until limp.

3.  Add more olive oil to prevent sticking and add the ground turkey.  Break up the meat and brown.  Add basil, oregano, and thyme and continue browning until the herbs become aromatic.  With the heat still on high, add the wine and cook until the wine is almost completely evaporated.

4.  Add the can of diced tomatoes with juice.  Toss in the bay leaves, mushrooms, and green pepper.  Stir until well mixed and lower heat to medium.  The sauce ingredients should be bubbling mildly.  Leave uncovered until the tomatoes release their juices and the liquid in the pot is mostly evaporated.  This step concentrates the flavors and will take 15 to 20 minutes.

5.  When the sauce becomes thickened, add the can of crushed tomatoes and the can of tomato paste.  Stir to incorporate well.  Partially cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer for a minimum of one hour.

6.  Taste for seasonings and add more basil or oregano if desired.  Salt and pepper if you must but there is plenty of salt in the canned tomatoes.  If the tomatoes are highly acidic, add brown sugar a half teaspoonful at a time until the acidity is reduced to your liking.  A little bit of sugar will cut the acidity and add smoothness to the ragu.

7.  Find some cooked pasta and plenty of grated cheese.  Eat!

 

Tomato Sauce 2

Tomato Sauce 2

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried basil
1 28 oz can tomatoes, puree
1 28 oz can tomatoes, crushed
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Brown sugar

  1. Heat olive oil in an 8 quart stock pot.
  2. Saute the carrot, onion, and celery until limp.
  3. Add garlic, mushrooms, basil, and oregano.  Saute for another minute.
  4. Add both cans of tomatoes, simmer for 30-45 minutes.

 

This sauce recipe is a rough adaptation from the cookbook Cooking From an Italian Garden by Paola Scaravelli and Jon Cohen.  The cookbook contains Italian vegetarian recipes (long story here).  I’ve served this sauce on pasta and it’s OK.  But rather than use this sauce as is, I’ve always used it as the base for my version of Sunday Gravy.  My family never really cared for giant chunks of animal protein in their sauce.  So Tomato Sauce 2 became my base for meatballs and sausage.

Tips – salt and pepper to taste.  Use sugar only if the tomatoes are overly acidic.  You’ll be glad you used an 8 quart pot once you toss in the meatballs.  Italian Sausage and Beef Meatballs

Baked Penne with Two Sauces

Baked Penne with Two Sauces

In the North End of Boston there is a marvelous Italian restuarant named Giacomo’s.  The place is small and cramped, service is brusque.  The food is exquisite which certainly explains this eatery’s well deserved reputation.  My first encounter was many years ago when my brother and I stopped in for dinner.  I ordered Seafood Linguine and the waiter asked

“Red, white, or pink?”

“I know what red is and I know what white is.  What’s pink?”

“Red and white together.”

Imagine a pasta dish with the consistency of a good macaroni and cheese plus a rich hearty ragu.  I bought back my memories and created a baked pasta with two sauces.

Turkey Ragu (about a quart, more if you like your pasta moist)
Parmesan sauce (see recipe below)
One pound box of penne (rigatoni works well also, or use your favorite pasta shape)
Grated parmesan cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese, about two cups
Extra virgin olive oil

1.  Bring several quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Cook pasta until barely al dente.  The pasta should still be firm to the touch and will cook through during the baking process while absorbing the sauces.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.

2.  While the pasta is cooking prepare the parmesan sauce.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and cook briefly.  Gradually add milk, stirring constantly to remove all lumps.  Add parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. When the sauce begins bubbling at the edges and thickens, turn off heat and set aside.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4.  Take a baking pan large enough for the pasta and grease the pan with extra virgin olive oil.

5.  Place partially cooked pasta in the pan, add parmesan sauce, and mix well.

6.  Cover pasta mixture with ragu, mixing gently.  If your family likes pasta moist, use more ragu.

7.  Sprinkle grated parmesan and shredded mozzarella cheeses on top.

8.  Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30-35 minutes.  If your family likes pasta a little drier, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking time.

9.  Serve with a nice fresh green vegetable, salad, and bread.

Parmesan Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Giacomo’s Restaurant
355 Hanover St
Boston, MA

Turkey Ragu

Note – there is an updated version of this recipe.

I decided to leave the original intact.

Turkey Ragu

3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup fresh green pepper, finely diced
1 pound ground turkey (use 85/15 or 93/7 mixtures.  DO NOT use 100% breast meat)
2 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
Pinch of Thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1 28 oz can tomatoes, finely diced, with juice
1 28 oz can tomatoes, crushed
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Brown sugar

1.  Heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over high heat in a large saucepot.  I
prefer the taste of Spanish olive oils and Borges is my favorite.  If you can’t find
Borges look for the Star brand which is made by the same company.  Substitute your
favorite regular olive oil if desired.

2.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and onion.  Saute for a few minutes until limp.

3.  Add more olive oil to prevent sticking and add the ground turkey.  Break up the
meat and brown.  Add basil, oregano, and thyme and continue browning until the
herbs become aromatic.  With the heat still on high, add the wine and cook until the
wine is almost completely evaporated.

4.  Add the can of diced tomatoes with juice.  Toss in the bay leaves, mushrooms, and
green pepper.  Stir until well mixed and lower heat to medium.  The sauce ingredients
should be bubbling mildly.  Leave uncovered until the tomatoes release their juices
and the liquid in the pot is mostly evaporated.  This step concentrates the flavors and
will take 15 to 20 minutes.

5.  When the sauce becomes thickened, add the can of crushed tomatoes and the can
of tomato paste.  Stir to incorporate well.  Partially cover, turn the heat to low, and
simmer for a minimum of one hour.

6.  Taste for seasonings and add more basil or oregano if desired.  Salt and pepper if
you must but there is plenty of salt in the canned tomatoes.  If the tomatoes are
highly acidic, add brown sugar a half teaspoonful at a time until the acidity is reduced
to your liking.  A little bit of sugar will cut the acidity and add smoothness to the
ragu.

7.  Find some cooked pasta and plenty of grated cheese.  Eat!

I used to make my meat sauce with ground beef.  Somewhere along the way I started using ground turkey.  You get a lighter sauce than a ragu made with beef.  Try it.  You’ll love this ragu.

Pantry Tip

Always have good quality canned tomatoes and paste in the pantry.  A couple of cans of stewed tomatoes are also good to have on the shelf, especially if you open your fridge and find limp celery, one carrot, and no onions.  If this sounds like your fridge, you might want to keep some dried onion flakes and garlic powder in the spice rack too.

Another Pantry Tip

San Marzano tomatoes make a big difference.  The stuff from Italy is expensive so I’ve used San Marzano style organic from California.  Over time I’ve come to appreciate the flavor boost you get from using dried versions of onion and garlic.  I’m no longer a food snob who insists about everything fresh.  It’s all about the flavor.  Turkey Ragu 2 is the updated version of this ragu which incorporates some of these flavor boosting ingredients.