Too many tomatoes, zucchini, peppers? No problem! September 6, 2011Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: homemade spaghetti sauce, how to use excess tomatoes, how to use up extra produce, spaghetti sauce recipe
Silence Dogood here. September’s shorter, cooler days tell us that fall is here, whatever the calendar’s official start date says. But our gardens are still in full harvest mode. If you’re drowning in tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, even eggplant, there’s a simple and scrumptious solution: spaghetti sauce.
Ever met anyone who doesn’t love spaghetti? I sure haven’t. And let me tell you, you can put a lot of produce in a single pot of the red sauce. I do it all the time. Once you’ve made it, it keeps well in the fridge, freezes and cans up beautifully, and can be used as the filling in lasagna or any pasta casserole or the topping for manicotti or stuffed shells. (Note that if you’re canning, either use a pressure canner or, if you’re hot-water-bath canning, leave the mushrooms, zukes and eggplant out until you’re heating up the sauce for safety’s sake.)
My spaghetti sauce is vegetarian, so it uses even more veggies. But it’s so thick and rich that even folks who’re used to spaghetti with meat sauce love it. Trust me, I don’t, sadly, know even one other vegetarian, but everyone I know begs me to make this sauce all the time. I’m telling you, try it, you’ll like it. No, you’ll love it!
My basic spaghetti sauce recipe calls for canned crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce and tomato paste, but if I have extra ripe tomatoes that need to be used right away, I’ll chop them and toss them in as well. No worries!
But here’s a trick if you have a lot of ripe tomatoes you want to use in your sauce: Quarter them, put them in one or more big, rectangular oven-proof glass pan(s), such as a 9-by-13-inch Pyrex pan, and roast them in the oven at 350 degrees F until they cook down and their juices are concentrated. You’ll enjoy the roasted flavor in your sauce! If you have room in the fridge, you can do this the day before you make your sauce; if not, do it a couple of hours before you want to start cooking.
Note: Always use glass or ceramic cookware, never metal, when cooking tomatoes or tomato sauce. Because tomatoes are acidic, they react badly with metals, getting an off-flavor from stainless steel and actually pitting aluminum. (I have no experience with copper, so can’t comment on that.) I use my biggest cast-iron, enamelled LeCreuset Dutch oven when I make spaghetti sauce. And, just so you’re warned, you’re going to need a very large pot to make this recipe, ’cause it makes a big batch!
Okay, let me stop yapping and tell you what to do to make…
Silence’s Supreme Spaghetti Sauce
2 large sweet onions (Vidalia, WallaWalla, or 1015 type)
3 large, plump garlic cloves, or more to taste
2 large green bell peppers, or one large green and one other pepper of any color from your garden
4 medium zucchini
1 large box button mushrooms
1 large Italian-style or 2 Oriental-style eggplants, if desired (this is optional, but fine to add if you need to use them up)
1 large (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or the equivalent quantity tomato sauce, plus 1 12-ounce can tomato paste; may add fresh chopped tomatoes and/or substitute roasted tomatoes as desired
dried oregano, basil, and thyme, to taste (or, if you need to use up your fresh garden herbs, substitute them, remembering that you’ll need about three times as much fresh herbs)
hot sauce, to taste; we like Tabasco Chipotle and Pickapeppa (or, if you grow your own hot peppers, mince and add to taste)
salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare) and cracked black pepper or lemon pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil
red wine (any dry red will do, so I use what’s on hand: chianti, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.)
shredded or flaked Parmesan for topping
To make the sauce, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a big, heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven. Peel and dice the onions and add; mince the garlic and add; add plenty of salt. When the onions have clarified, slice and add the mushrooms. Add the black or lemon pepper and a liberal amount of the herbs. When the mushrooms have cooked down, core and dice the bell peppers and add; you can also chop and add the hot peppers or add a splash of hot pepper sauce at this point.
Slice the zucchini, then quarter the slices and add. If you’re including eggplant, do the same for the zucchini-sized Oriental eggplant, or dice the larger, bell-shaped Italian eggplant, and add them now, too. These will add body to the finished sauce, rather than being recognizable on their own terms.
Once all of this has cooked down, it’s time to add the various tomato stuff: the crushed tomatoes or sauce, the tomato paste, and/or any fresh diced or roasted tomatoes. And once you’ve made sure the tomato stuff is well stirred in, you want to add at least a tablespoon of sugar, or more to taste, and then pour a circle of red wine around the perimeter of the pot and stir it in. These are the secret ingredients that deepen the flavor and make the sauce irresistible.
A splatter shield will definitely be helpful at this point! The fine-screen disc sits on the top of the pot and keeps spaghetti sauce from splashing up on you as it cooks down. You want the sauce to cook down until it’s incredibly rich and thick, which will take longer with fresh tomatoes. Turn the heat way down, stir from the bottom every ten minutes. Taste periodically and adjust the seasonings to make it the best you’ll ever serve.
Once the sauce is so thick it will cling to the pasta rather than dripping down, heat water in an even bigger pot and cook your spaghetti. While it’s cooking, make a lovely, crunchy fresh salad to balance the richness of your sauce. Then serve it all up with grated or flaked Parmesan on top of each serving if the diner desires it. You can put flaked red pepper on the table along with salt, pepper, and extra Parmesan if you’d like.
I always make a simple vinaigrette for the salad since the sauce itself is so rich, rather than a creamy dressing. Don’t forget that you can put even more of your bounty of summer squash, cukes, peppers, tomatoes, and fresh herbs in the salad! Everyone will thank you for it.
And there you have it! Enjoy.
‘Til next time,