Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hearty Harvest Marinara Sauce

I preface this recipe by saying this sauce is a very big deal around here. It will make a mess and it will take several hours. However it has an amazing flavor and it's a great recipe to have in the freezer to pull out before work or life in the morning when you know you are going to have a busy filled day. It also seems to make the Winter go quicker and you still feel like you have some vine ripened magic happening in your snowy backyard. If you have children, they will be none the wiser that they are eating something healthy as the sauce is smooth because the veggies are pureed. This recipe makes between 12-18 quarts depending on the size of your tomatoes and how long you let it simmer down. To all those of you who want something to do with all the tomatoes, peppers and zucchini's from your garden at harvest time, here you go! I myself got all my veggies and fresh herbs at one of the larger local farmers market all for about $25. You will need:

40-50 garden fresh tomatoes
2 - 8 oz. package mushrooms 
1 large fresh garlic bulb
1/3 cup kosher or sea salt (or more depending on taste)
1 Tablespoon pepper
2 tsp red pepper flakes, optional 
8-10 large unpeeled carrots 
1 bunch celery
4 medium white onions 
1 large zuchini
1 large yellow squash
3 Tablespoons olive oil
5 Tablespoons fresh basil - save for very end!
2 Tablespoons sugar
4 cans tomato paste for thickening
I also added 1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme 
1 tsp. dried rosemary
All veggies and spices and their quantities are optional. Use however much of whatever you have! You will also need two large pots, a powerful blender (I used a Blentec) and several ziplock quart and gallon size freezer bags. I filled the quart sized bags for when I knew there would only be 2-3 of us enjoying a meal or for a pizza, and the gallon sized bags for when we are entertaining a larger group or wanted leftovers.

Use a food processor or blender to puree all the veggies, onions and garlic except the tomatoes which yes I know are technically a fruit -save these for later. This will most likely take several blenders full. I gave the washed veggies a rough chop, then put them in the blender with one to three tomatoes at the bottom (The less tomatoes the better at this point as you are going to sauté the veggies after this) The tomatoes at the bottom usually gave the blender just enough liquid to chop the rest of it. For a meatier sauce, don't puree your veggies, just chop them finely.
Once the veggies are all pureed, put them into a pot with the olive oil and let them sauté over medium to medium high heat for about 15 minutes. Add all the seasonings. Then equally separate the pureed veggies into two pots. To start your tomatoes, I would wash them, cut out their belly-buttons and cut them in half. Fill the blender and puree.  Also start adding a little of the tomato paste to your blenders full of tomatoes so that it mixes in well. If you don't do this and add it directly to the stock pot, it will clump and eventually scorchAgain, pour equal amounts of tomato puree into each pot. Stir well and allow sauce to simmer for 2-4 hours on low without the lid, stirring at least once every 10-20 minutes. I say this because one time I was making this and I left it for about 45 minutes without stirring to come back to stuck on the bottom scorched nastiness that left that stock pot of sauce ruined. Sauce should reduce about one third. Add the fresh basil right before serving or freezing. Taste the sauce to make sure it doesn't need any more salt/sugar/seasoning. (If you are using fresh tomatoes, you may need more salt/sugar to balance the acid.) Let sauce cool then freeze in bags/tupperware for later meals.
You can also add up to 4 pounds of ground turkey or italian sausage, which I didn't. By all means, you can add it, or any other ground meat to your sauce. I figure it takes about 3 minutes to brown ground beef/turkey/sausage, and sometimes, I just prefer no meat (like if I am using the sauce for pizza or calzone). The best part? It tastes awesome!  Enjoy!

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