Tag Archives: tomato sauce

Basic Home-Made Tomato Puree (freezeable!)

13 Sep

I have just done a listening exercise with my ESL students on The Marshmallow Test … a 1960s experiment that offered four-year-olds one marshmallow off the bat, but an additional marshmallow if they could just wait alone in a room for 15 minutes with that first marshmallow and not eat it.

Plunged into ice water and ready for processing into tomato sauce

Astonishingly the findings over time showed that kids who could delay gratification for longer times at four, were likely to be more successful socially, educationally and professionally when they grew up than the kids who couldn’t wait and sucked that first marshmallow down as soon as they were alone with it.

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Albóndigas Variation (Meatballs: Eat some now, freeze some for later)

28 Jun

You would think that I came from hunger.

I stockpile like a squirrel in autumn. (And like squirrels, I sometimes forget where the hell I stockpiled my treasures, but that is another matter for a day when we are discussing organization. Today, we are not). I don’t feel safe unless there are plenty of foodstuffs laid by, whether for unexpected guests, an emergency supper,  the coming of The Apocalypse, or the nuclear winter. I’m a Cold War baby and that’s how I roll.

Sauté onion and garlic in a saucepan, drop in frozen meatballs and a tin of crushed tomatoes with your preferred herbs and spices and in 20 minutes of lively simmer – gorgeous sauce for spaghetti and meatballs!

There’s nothing I like more than a pantry full of stuff with which to make meals, except a freezer full of stuff that is already made (by me, of course, because the supermarket has freezers full of simulated-food garbage I won’t pay for, cause it’s  simulated food garbage I won’t eat).

To freeze, place cooled meatballs in a freezer bag. Lay the bag flat on a plate and stick in freezer so the meatballs don’t freeze stuck together. When completely frozen through, remove plate, shake the bag to unstick meatballs, squeeze air out, and leave bag in freezer. Use within three months (or before freezer burn sets in!)

Thus, this meatball recipe – a variation on my dad’s excellent meatballs. We call them albóndigas and like to make them neutrally flavored for freezing, so that whatever the occasion you can drop them in an Italian-style tomato sauce, serve them with buttered noodles, make a meatball sandwich, stick them with toothpicks and call them hors d’oeuvres, do whatever, adding your favorite seasonings later.

Cheese, please!

Use some hot off the stove, and freeze the rest. You never know when they will save your life….

Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs!

Albóndigas (Variation on Pedro’s Albóndigas)

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 generous Cup onion, chopped

2 Tbs olive oil

1 Cup mixed fresh herbs (or 4 Tbs dry), such as basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, parsley

2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1 tsp salt

3 lbs ground beef (you can substitute 1lb of pork for 1lb of beef)

2 whole eggs (optional)

1 cup breadcrumbs (plain, or seasoned with similar herbs to those you chose above)

Whir garlic, onions, olive oil and parsley in a blender or food processor until minced fine. Add herbs, Old Bay, and salt and pulse a few times until it forms a paste.

In a large bowl place meat, seasoning paste, optional eggs, roasted red pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix well so that breadcrumbs are evenly distributed. Using your hands, roll into balls about 1.5 inches across. You can dip your hands in water to keep from sticking.

Heat 2 Tbs oil in heavy skillet at medium heat until the oil flows like water and a meatball dipped in it sizzles softly. Fry several at a time (use tongs to turn quickly) browning on all sides, then lower to medium low and cook for about six minutes, shaking the pan and turning meatballs occasionally. When they are cooked through, cool on paper towels. Can be frozen for three months in an airtight container.

Pasta al Tonno II (Black olive variation – freezeable!)

8 May

A while back I tried out a pasta with tuna recipe on my son. It had green olives and capers, as well, so we are not talking about subdued flavors off the kiddie menu. He loved it, because he is not a kiddie menu type of kid (except for the macaroni and cheese and those portions are anyway TOO SMALL) so I decided to try another variation (actually the one I first learned from Susana Villanova in Italy, way back when and still one of my favorites) AND an experiment.

I saved half the sauce to see if it would freeze well.

Add or subtract olives as you see fit!

Leandro thought it was great the first time and had seconds, plus lunch the next day! Two weeks later, I defrosted the second pint in the fridge and made it up for a dinner. Success! It was just as good, if not better, and I got a dinner and lunch out of it for the little guy.

Fast, cheap, and hearty! Easy too, except for trying to keep him from using his hands and then wiping them off on his clothes….This will be a new emergency staple (notice – all of these are pantry ingredients except maybe the onion – which is pretty much a pantry item around here!)

Good for boys and girls and grown-ups too!

Pasta al tonno II (with black olives)

1 lb of long flat thin pasta (I like fettucine, but linguine or thick spaghetti will work fine; half this if you are going to freeze half the sauce for later)

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 small to medium onion, chopped fine

28 oz can crushed or peeled and chopped tomatoes

6 oz can of light or white tuna (I use water packed, but you can use oil-packed if you drain. I do not drain the water-packed tuna)

20-30 pitted black olives, sliced

Teaspoon of dry oregano/parsley/basil or Tbs fresh (optional)

Salt to taste

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a  medium pot on medium-high until fragrant. Add onions, stir to coat and lower heat to medium low. Allow to soften — about five minutes. Add tomato and bring to a simmer – about five minutes. Add tuna and olives, salt and herbs to taste and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes (15-20 if you have time). Mix into cooked pasta and serve.

If you plan to freeze half the sauce, put in a freezer-safe container. It will stay nice at least a couple of weeks.

Fresh Tomato Sauce – Criollo-Style!

27 Aug

We anticipate a lot of flooding from Hurricane Irene, but the inundation I have been dealing with is far more pleasant: tomatoes. At Restoration Farm pick-up on Thursday, Farmer Dan’s dad, Daniel Holmes, heard I intended to make sauce and came up with four generous pounds of “seconds”: tomatoes that were harvested but don’t look pretty enough for distribution; a little bruised, maybe split, over-ripe – glorious grabbing for a peasant-hearted person. I was eager to take them, then of course got home and thought…oh s**t, I have to do these like, now, or what’s  the point?

And then I wasn’t sure how well my food mill would work – it seems to be missing a piece  – but I was in NO MOOD to blanch, peel and seed all these smaller tomatoes before cooking, so I went for it, just quartered them and dumped them in the pot. Luckily for me, I was able to rig the food mill to work, but if you are wondering what to get me for my birthday…(an egg timer would be equally welcome)

So, here is a very simple recipe for tomato sauce that tastes just like what my grandmother and her sisters used to make, often cooked with chopped eggplant or chicken thighs on the bone…I am not quite sure what I am going to do with my quart of sauce – it is in the freezer where it will keep for a few months, but I suspect that I will soon be misting up with nostalgia for my abuela over a bowl of eggplant and this sauce over rice.

If you are looking for an Italian style sauce, substitute the sofrito with a couple of sprigs of fresh basil (I may actually be doing that this afternoon with another batch while we still have electricity ) and add julienned basil at the end of cooking.

This sauce can be made anytime, substituting tomatoes from a can, but it is at its most fresh, light and charming when you take advantage of really ripe tomatoes.

This is pasta sauce the way my grandmother used to make it

Fresh Tomato Sauce – Criollo-Style

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 lbs ripe tomatoes, quartered if you have a food mill, peeled, seeded and diced if you don’t

¼-1/2 tsp sugar

4 Tbs homemade or prepared sofrito or two ice cubes worth if you have frozen (https://hotcheapeasy.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/sofrito-for-freezing-puerto-rican-mirepoix/)

Coarse salt, to taste (you’ll be adding it by the half teaspoon)

In a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Do not allow to burn.

Add the tomatoes, sugar, sofrito and ½ tsp salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low (a gentle simmer) and cook, stirring often until thickened. I simmer at least 30 minutes, but juicier tomatoes take longer.  Taste and add salt, as desired.

If using a food mill, use the medium blade. The peeled and seeded tomatoes will break up on their own, but you can run through the blender for a smoother texture.

Makes about 1 quart.

Three common ingredients = one uncommonly good pasta sauce, FAST

5 Jan

So we spent another evening in the emergency room and Leandro got another four stitches, this time in the forehead. With that kind of excitement going on, you can be sure that once the chocolate ice cream dinner for brave boys was up, I was STILL going to be too tired for anything elaborate in the kitchen.

Marcella Hazan to the rescue. This queen of the kitchen’s Essentials of Italian Cuisine is a much loved and much soiled recipe book over here. These days I don’t have the resources for some of the more ambitious dishes, but her tomato sauce with onion and butter is simple and perfect: three ingredients resulting in one glorious, sweet, rich sauce that you barely have to stir!

I have adapted it slightly to make it even faster (puree, rather than whole tomatoes, adjusted the butter, for example). The beauty of this one is that it can be done in the time it takes you to boil up the pasta.

Marcella recommends potato gnocchi under the sauce, but the pre-prepared ones are generally yucky and I ain’t making gnocchi myself any time soon (oh for the heavenly days that Fabiola made it for me in Rovereto!).

These days I buy fresh ravioli from Fairway Market (no preservatives and a variety of fillings – $6 for 24) and actually freeze it. It breaks off into convenient serving sizes and takes about 15 minutes to cook after you drop them in the boiling water and the boil comes back. They re-heat pretty nicely, so I make extra for my little guy’s lunch box, just adding a dab of butter to the hot ravioli so it doesn’t stick.

I used cheese ravioli this time. “Mama I really love this!”


Steamed broccoli can be dipped in the sauce

Tomato with Onion and Butter

28 oz. can tomato puree

6 Tbs butter

One onion, peeled and cut in half (I prefer red onion for extra sweetness, but use whatever you have; yellow is fine)

Cook all three ingredients together in a deep pot with a lid at medium to low heat until the fat begins to separate from the tomato (about 20 minutes, or the amount of time you spend boiling the pasta). The longer you cook it, the sweeter it gets, so if you have more time, use it!

Spoon over your favorite pasta and serve with loads of good grated cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano or Gran Padano)

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