Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Roasted Spaghetti Sauce

I had the pleasure of working with some very lovely tomatoes this fall. Some folks we know have greenhouses wherein they raise them organically. These tomatoes are actually what they sorted out as "seconds", which might give you some indication of  the quality of their produce.

Now, a couple years ago I ran across a recipe on a blog where they roasted tomatoes for tomato sauce and raved about the difference in taste. I prompty tried it with the next thing I made using tomatoes, which happened to be a home canned salsa. It was an immediate hit in our house! The roasting seems to bring out a sweetness you hardly know is there otherwise, while decreasing the acidity.

We have pretty avid spaghetti eaters residing in our home, and it is an easy quick meal to put together. That makes spaghetti sauce a worthwhile thing for me to make and have on hand.

I enjoy cooking as much as possible with whole fresh foods, instead of using someone else's blends etc. There is a certain satisfaction from creating something completely from scratch. However, I am not opposed to using them, and have a favorite "Pizza Blend Seasoning" that comes by the pound from San Fransisco Herb Co. I have been using it the last few years, and only this year used my own fresh herbs until my poor plants were picked bare.

Now, first of all I will give you a prep tip I have learned to love! If you are including black pepper in your recipe, it makes an amazing difference in taste and smell if you roast/toast the peppercorns a bit before you grind them. I have a small (6 in.) cast iron skillet that I use reularly for this ever since I made this discovery. Just get a pan hot and throw in the peppercorns, roll them around a bit, give them a chance to get hot, sniff to see if they are giving off any smell. When they are, grind them. I use my Magic Bullet with the flat blade.

To make spagetti sauce by roasting your ingredients is really simple.

I start by drizzling some olive oil on the pan.
Then add quartered or halved roma tomatoes, depending on the size.
To a large cookie sheet sized pan, I also add:
At least 5 or more cloves of garlic...
One half of a red or green pepper...
1/2 to a whole onion, depending on the size...
Over all this I sprinkle some coarse sea salt and roasted fresh ground black pepper.
Toss it a bit to disperse the olive oil, and put in the oven @ 400 degrees for an hour.
I put in 2 pans at a time, then stir, and rotate the pans from top to bottom about half-way through.

After it is all roasted, making an absolutely delicious fall smell in your house, I put it through the blender. (It isn't super smooth and will have little tiny bits of tomato skin in it. If you like it smoother, you can put it through a food mill and it takes out the skins and tomato seeds. I did not strain mine. It is an added step to the process, and an unnecessary one in my opinion.)  Add your seasonings now too. If using fresh basil and oregano like I did, I add it into the blender after pureeing the tomatoes a bit first. It leaves a nice amount of green flecks.
Since I do this in quantity, pan after pan so that I can process in quart jars for winter use, I put it in a large kettle and simmer it to keep it hot and also to let the seaonings do their thing, if using a dry mix.

Another yummy addition is sauteing up lots fresh mushrooms to add in at this point.

I know there are varying ways to process something like this. So far I haven't had any problems with just doing it in a boiling water bath for around 20 minutes.
For my family's favorite spaghetti, I just brown 1 pound of sausage or hamburger, add a quart of this sauce, and one can of cream of mushroom soup. Ladle that over a pile of whole wheat spaghetti noodles with a side of green beans for a most satisfying supper any night of the week!

Note: One pan as full as possible made me 2+ quarts. And no, it didn't take me forever to do it this way. I planned on getting out my 18 quart roaster and getting it going to speed up the process since I wanted a lot, only to discover I could barely keep up with the oven! With a 1 year old in the house, and all the washing tomatoes, chopping, blendering, filling jars, boiling lids etc., I even turned the oven off a couple times. :)

One last word of recommendation:
I am learning to enjoy the process a bit more instead of just pushing hard to get to the finished product.
Take time to smell the peppercorns! :)
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