Basic Tomato Pasta Sauce

When I first started to make tomato sauce, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know that additional vegetables were added to add complexity of flavor. I didn’t know how to season it properly and I certainly had no idea how long to let it simmer. Last summer, I started hanging out with my friend’s brother upon her suggestion. David was always boasting about his Italian heritage and we decided to have Monday night dinners. He taught me about tomato sauces and freshly baked bread and I taught him about pasta doughs and opened his eyes to the ease and deliciousness of rolling it yourself. It was truly a wonderful friendship that really challenged me to expand my baking & cooking repertoire.

This is not his recipe, but one I’ve developed over the years of trial and error. Though, I will say he provided a vital step in the process of developing it.  I like it because it uses a lot of veggies and only as much salt as you want, making it healthy and versatile. If you want more veggies (or texture) in your sauce, you can always saute eggplant, peppers, or mushrooms in a separate pan and add them in or just wilt some spinach in it as it keeps warm over med. low heat.
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Basic Tomato Sauce
yields approx 4 cups

needs:

drizzle of olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 zucchini, chopped (optional)
2- 14 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. parsely
1/2 t. cayenne pepper (optional)
small dash of nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
6-8 basil leaves
1/2 lemon, juiced (approx.1 T.)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, start with a drizzle of olive oil and the onion and garlic. Saute until slightly browned and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the carrot, celery and zucchini. Continue to cook until soft and slightly browned.

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Add the tomatoes & their juice, making sure to crus the tomatoes a little with your hands. Add the spices and heat until simmering. Simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes. This allows the sauce to thicken and the seasonings to marinate.

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Remove the bay leaf and transfer the sauce to a blender. Add the basil leaves and blend on high speed for 2 minutes.

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Transfer back to the pan, stirring in the lemon juice. Either keep warm over low-medium low heat until ready to use or allow your sauce to cool in a glass container for another day!

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Spicy Tomato Basil Soup

It has recently come to my attention that I missed Groundhog’s Day. To most people, this is not a big holiday, but for me this tradition might be my favorite thing about America (clearly an exaggeration). But really, I love the absurd and the magical so this groundhog business is absolutely delightful to me. Unfortunately, it passed by without a wave or a nod AND we are scheduled for six more weeks of winter. Ughh. Fortunately, it is sunny & clear skied so I’ve got my fingers crossed that the mystical Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby misspoke this year.

Anyways, we’ve got to find ways to keep happy and warm for another six weeks. I suppose we could always fall back on an old childhood favorite – tomato soup & grilled cheese.
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Spicy Tomato Basil Soup
yields approximately 3 servings

needs:
1 – 28 oz can peeled, whole tomatoes, separate tomatoes from liquid
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 T. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450.

Separate the canned tomatoes from their reserved juice. Place them on a small, foil lined jelly roll pan or cake pan. Drizzle oil over them with a dash of salt & pepper & the minced garlic. Bake for about 15 minutes.

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2 T. butter
1 shallot, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled & chopped
1/2 serrano, chopped with seeds in
1 c. veggie broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 c. cream
1/4 c. chopped basil

In a medium sized sauce pan or stock pot, melt the butter and add in the veggies, except the serrano. Cook the veggies down over medium heat for about two minutes. Add the serrano and continue to cook until the veggies are browned & translucent.

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Add the reserved juice from the can of tomatoes & the veggie broth. Drop in a bay leaf and the tomatoes which should be finished roasting. Simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavor to meld.

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When ready, transfer the soup to a blender and add the basil & cream. Blend on high for about 2 minutes or until the soup is smooth.

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Distribute into bowls & serve with crunchy croutons or a grilled cheese!

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