Sunday, September 13, 2020

Spaghetti Sauce, Pesto and Other Joys of Being Home

Back in the dutch oven with you. I gave the weepy sauce a mournful look, but then instantly it came to me that this year, it was OK. 

This is a radical thought to have in the year 2020 of the Common Era, I know, but here it was, bubbling up at me from a big, blue pot on my stove. 

This year, I would be home and able to supervise the sauce from beginning to end. Too soupy? No worries, back on to simmer you go. No need to quickly can and or bag and freeze it until I was good and ready to do so; no "surprise tomato substance with no date" found two months later in the deep freeze. 

In the ten years since I began working and being called away at odd hours or out of town, there may have been a year or two in which free tomatoes did not coincide with ideal canning moment. As usual, last week, we made both spaghetti sauce, from my grandmother's recipe, and piperade, from my husband's grandmother's recipe. Hard to tell which is which in the deep, dark bottom of the big freezer. A quick sauce is better than no sauce, certainly, but a perfect even better. A perfect sauce that has been properly canned and labeled? That is living life to the fullest. 

This comfort may be small, but it is grounding and real. 

Ditto for the pesto; the temperatures were dropping to 50 tonight? Crud, my friend, that is how you lose an entire crop of the pansy stuff. Go out in bare feet in the moonlight to harvest basil: check. Wrap in damp towel, knowing tomorrow I will get to it: check. On hand we have pine nuts: also check. We are never without fresh garlic. We are cooks.

Finding joy in the perfect cup of tea, or in being home to cook, home to complete a project, no matter how small, is a tiny burst of joy in a day. 

The sauces were not bad either. 

Recipes? Sure, go ahead, especially if someone just called you with an offer of free produce. Bon appetit!

Spaghetti Sauce

A lot of tomatoes: all the ones you don't want to use for piperade or for a tomato salad with fresh mozzarella and basil, with a vinaigrette made from a mild vinegar; red wine works nicely, the rest of them then:

(cored, peeled (drop in boiling water, remove leaving skin behind)

Garlic (1 clove per 3-4 tomatoes)

Basil (a few leaves, to taste, if dried; 1/4 teaspoon to 3-4 tomatoes)

Oregano (1/4 teaspoon to 3-4 tomatoes)

Olive oil (for sautéing)


Maybe a dash of pepper

Mince garlic, and sauté in the olive oil until golden

Add tomatoes, cook half an hour over medium low heat, reduce to simmer, add basil, oregano, salt, simmer until liquid has been almost all the way reduced. Taste for spices once every hour or so, add salt, pepper, others as needed. 


Is much like ratatouille, but minus the aubergines; garden harvest plus, you guessed it, onions and all the tomatoes you have been given or harvested. 


Classic recipe

2 cups of basil leaves, rather packed

1/3 c pine nuts

3-4 cloves garlic (depending on size and taste for garlic)

1/4 c olive oil

1/4 c Parmesan


In food processor/blender/coffee grinder or Nutribullet, blend basil, add pine nuts, blend, pour in a tiny stream of olive oil as needed to continue mixing.  Add garlic, blend, Parmesan and salt, blend and add olive oil to help with mixing until you have a nice paste. Serve (or rather, add a tiny spoonful) to pasta or anything else.

A word of advice: use copious amounts of mouth wash before venturing forth into the world again.

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