Tonight’s menu? Spaghetti. On the side, my husband (hereafter known as J) prepared some delicious zucchini sauteed with onions, and mushrooms cooked with Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Now that I’ve practically licked the plate clean, I’ve got SAUCE on my mind…
J and I are blessed to have inherited two equally tasty, yet very different tomato sauce recipes from our mothers. His mom’s sauce features intense tomato flavor and a decadent dose of parmesan, while my mom’s relies heavily on such unexpected flavors as carrot and celery. Whether either matriarch will be willing to release her recipe into the blogosphere remains to be seen! In the meantime, here are a few saucy thoughts:
If you have some tomatoes (fresh or canned) and onions on hand, you can pretty much make yourself some sauce that’s better than anything that comes out of a jar. Throw those two things into a pan with your favorite seasonings and you’re good to go. But if you have some extra time, try dressing up your sauce with one of these recipes (while the first two are recipes for a complete dish, in either case the sauce could stand alone):
Athenian Orzo, from Eating Well
This has been a go-to dinner party recipe for me for years (especially after my friend Steven started requesting it!). The herbs in the tomato sauce combine nicely with the tang of the feta and capers and the sweetness of the shrimp. Best of all, it only takes about 30 minutes of active cooking time. Not too shabby! Click here for recipe.
Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Rolls, from Passionate Vegetarian
Early in our relationship, J told me to pick any recipe for him to prepare for dinner on my birthday, and this is what I chose. The sauce is flavored with basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and bay, and though it calls for lentils it really doesn’t need them. Grilling the vegetables and then stuffing them with spinach and dilled feta cream is so labor-intensive that we only attempt the recipe on special occasions, but every time we’re glad we did. Unfortunately the sauce recipe doesn’t seem to be online, but if you like the sound of the rest of the meal (click here), you can use your own favorite sauce in its place…or, buy the cookbook (authored by Crescent Dragonwagon)!
Pasta Puttanesca, from The Silver Palate Cookbook
And finally, an old favorite from a classic cookbook. J and I love how such a simple recipe delivers such complex flavors. With olives and anchovies, it’s definitely zesty! The authors suggest serving it to “food-loving friends and pouring an earthy red wine.” Many of you probably have this cookbook on your shelf, but if not, click here.
At the store
Of course, if you have to get dinner on the table ASAP, you might not have time to make your own sauce. As with frozen pizza (see post from 4/21), we are bombarded by options for jarred tomato sauce…and, like frozen pizza, most are not so great. I find that a lot of jarred sauce is way too sweet, and if you look at the ingredients many do have quite a bit of sugar.
I think the best of the bunch is probably Classico, with Florentine Spinach & Cheese ranking as my household’s favorite flavor.
For a special treat, though, nothing beats Cucina Bella Suprema Sauce. Discovered by my sister at a specialty food store in Michigan, it’s a combination of marinara and alfredo – VERY rich and possibly addictive. It’s probably best that we haven’t found it locally, because this isn’t an everyday sauce. But you better believe we buy it every time we visit Mich.
And in case you were wondering if I put the wrong title on this post…
Good catch, but it was intentional! As a Sopranos fan, it’s an homage to Tony and friends, who eat pasta in seemingly every episode and call the sauce “gravy.”
Looking forward to hearing YOUR favorite ingredients, recipes, and dishes involving tomato sauce!
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