Friday, April 9, 2010

tomato sauce

Rachel here: For those who've been following, you know I've been meaning to get around to making a big batch of pasta sauce to freeze. I have this idea that somehow between now and when the baby comes (at the end of June) I will not only baby-fy my house, get straight As in school, spend lots of quality time with John and make sure to do some stuff just for myself, but that I will also somehow prepare and freeze months worth of food so that we can be well-fed during those early sleepless months. It's a great idea, sure, but I am increasingly aware that there is no way this entire dream to-do list is going to get done. I'm trying, instead, to focus on the little victories, to incorporate a little of each of these things into the coming days and weeks and to figure that, though the baby isn't here yet, this is just a glimpse of the impending upheaval in our home. But anyway, I now have two large jars of frozen pasta sauce that, some summer evening, I am sure I'll be glad I took the time to make last night.

I should say that I love making pasta sauce. I've only done it twice, but there's something so liberating about cooking without a recipe. Pasta sauce is up there with making soups for me, both leisurely and informal with lots of stirring (I think stirring calms my brain down). Plus, the end result is a hearty and simple meal that is virtually guaranteed to put a smile on the faces I'm feeding, along with my own. What do you like in your pasta sauce?

Mushroom and Olive Pasta Sauce
makes approximately 12 cups

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 lg. white onion, diced
1 c. brown mushrooms, sliced
2 lg. cloves garlic, minced
56 oz. whole peeled tomatoes (nope, I didn't mill my own...someday)
15 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 c. olives, chopped (I used kalamata and green italian)
4-6 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
fresh thyme, stripped from stems and to taste
3/4 c. red wine
salt and pepper

In a pan, reduce the balsamic vinegar until thick and sweet. In a large pot, saute the onion. Add the mushrooms once the onion has started to brown, and then add the garlic. Add all of your tomatoes. Add olives, basil and thyme. Add the balsamic reduction a few tablespoons at a time, to taste. If you use up all of the balsamic reduction and you want a sweeter sauce, feel free to add a bit of brown sugar. Add salt and paper to taste before pouring in the wine and bringing sauce to a simmer. Simmer until sauce thickens, around 1 hour, checking periodically. Adjust seasonings as needed. Yum!

Janet here: So, yeah, I used to do homemade tomato sauce back in the day when I was childless and an afternoon puttering around the kitchen making up a huge batch of tomato sauce for freezing was something I had the time and inclination to do. And then the children arrived, and between that and the full-time job, something, as they say, had to give. So my tomato sauce looks like this:

And it is still pretty damn tasty.

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