The Newbie Cook
- 16,667 forkfuls since 16.Oct.10
Making everything for the first time
It’s fruit and vegetable season here in South Jersey. Juicy blueberries, succulent strawberries and ripe, red tomatoes are everywhere. Last weekend, I went to a local farmer’s market with my friends Tracy, Robin and Wayne. I stocked up on veggies that I didn’t grow in my garden.
There was so much good stuff everywhere and I was tempted to buy a little bit of everything. But, alas! There are only two people in my household and we can only eat so much. Although I did buy a dozen corn, which I shared with my in-laws.
One of the must-buys on my list were Jersey tomatoes. My husband grew up in an Italian household with a traditional Noni that made sauce from scratch. Every summer, she would buy large baskets of tomatoes, peel them, and cook gallons of spaghetti sauce. From dawn to dusk almost everyday, the sauce would be simmering on the stove. I can only imagine how good their house smelled like.
Unfortunately, Noni is no longer alive and Chris is not in possession of the family recipe because it was only passed to the girls. Therefore, I had to be creative and make my sauce recipes myself. Some of them are based on others’ recipes while some are made up by yours truly — like the one below.
This particular sauce is fresh, chunky, and light. It only takes around 4 hours to cook this. After all, I work all day and go to school so I don’t have the time Noni had.
Jersey-Fresh Chunky Spaghetti Sauce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 whole medium garlic (or 10 cloves), squished and minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
10 large and ripe Jersey tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
sea salt and ground black pepper
Optional according to personal preference:
If you find it too acidic, add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of sugar according to taste
If you like a little heat, finely chop a couple of chili peppers or add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
Cut each tomato in half, crosswise. Clean out the seeds. Peel the tomatoes and chop in 1-inch wide pieces.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat and saute onion until pieces are soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (around 1 minute). Add a pat of butter and stir until it melts. Add the bell pepper and cook for another minute. If you choose to add chili peppers, you can add it along with the bell pepper. Add the tomatoes. Squish them a bit to release the juice. Let boil and then adjust heat to the lowest setting. Cover and simmer sauce for 30 minutes. Then uncover and simmer for 3 hours to reduce the liquid and make sure that the tomatoes are very, very soft. While simmering, add the herbs. Stir every 20-30 minutes.
Use a spatula to break tomatoes into smaller pieces. Add salt and pepper (and sugar if desired) at the end, adjust according to taste. Serve with pasta of choice.
You can also use this as a base sauce for cooking with meats or seafood.
This recipe yields around 4 cups of sauce. A serving of 1/2 cup has 180 calories. A half cup of sauce served with a cup of whole wheat cooked pasta has 360 calories (400 with regular pasta).