Kelly’s (Formerly) Super-Secret, Slow-Simmered, Slightly Sweet and Very Savory Pasta Sauce

February 20th, 2015 12:54 pm by Kelly Garbato

2015-02-15 - Sweet & Savory Pasta Sauce - 0007 [flickr]

Back when I published my review of The Oh She Glows cookbook last March, I may or may not have bragged about my super-awesome, oh-so-secret, perfected after years of slow-simmering and taste-testing, epically awesome pasta sauce from scratch. The internet may or may not have begged me to publish said recipe. Okay, so several people requested it.

Since it’s something I usually whip up on the fly, I wanted to actually make a batch, writing down the steps as I went, rather than guessing at the amounts of ingredients and such. Fast-forward eleven months and I’m just now getting to it.

It’s been the perfect storm of events conspiring against me: for one, I just haven’t been eating pasta as much. And when I do make sauce from scratch, it’s the frozen tomatoes in the fridge that get the first priority, ingredients-wise; problem is, they’ve already been run through the food processor, cooked and seasoned, such that they’d totally throw off the recipe. Also, the recent preponderance of cookbook reviews means I haven’t had as much time for original experimentation.

And then there’s Peedee, aka cancer boy: diagnosed with lung cancer last March; chest cut open and tumor (seemingly successfully) removed in April; and now, after nine months of screening, with x-rays in three-month intervals, it seems the cancer’s back. He started chemo yesterday (which, at the time of this writing, is actually still several days away; ’tis the magic of the queue! Insert a quick wish for minimal side effects here.) So yeah, it’s been a pretty hectic year.

Okay! I didn’t mean to go so dark there! Let’s talk pasta sauce, shall we?

So the key to me dream pasta sauce is three-fold. First, simmer, simmer, simmer! This sauce takes at least two hours to make, preferably more. The longer you can keep it on the stove top, the richer and more nuanced the taste. This definitely isn’t a weeknight/work night meal dealio.

Secondly: don’t be stingy with the sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, garlic, basil, and/or oregano (those last two should always appear in a 3-to-1 ratio, by the way). These bad girls make the sauce.

Last but not least: conduct plenty of taste testing along the way. Re-season as necessary. Love your pasta sauce, and it will love you back.

Wait! I lied. There’s a fourth rule that I just realized should be a bona fide rule, on account of it’s uber-important: you simply MUST add the red peppers in two batches. The original ones cook so long that they break down a little and become one with the sauce, whereas the second batch stays nice and chunky and results in tiny explosions of sweet, tangy, and occasionally charred flavor. So, so good. My mouth is watering as I write this.

SO. In summary: no two of my sauces are exactly alike, but what follows is my best stab at a standard recipe. Enjoy!

2015-02-15 - Sweet & Savory Pasta Sauce - 0013 [flickr]

Kelly’s (Formerly) Super-Secret, Slow-Simmered, Slightly Sweet and Very Savory Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, diced
5 tablespoons minced garlic + their juices
28 ounces diced tomatoes + their juices
3 roasted red peppers + 2 tablespoons of their oils; diced and divided
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (dry-packed), diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup water or red wine (red wine is optional but highly recommended)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons basil
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt + extra to taste
a dash of black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (preferably brown)
2/3 cups Kalamata olives, drained and halved
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced or diced

1 pound pasta of your choice + dinner rolls to soak up the extras!

Directions

1. In a deep, wide skillet, heat 2 tablespoonw olive oil (either fresh or, preferably, the oils used to roast the red peppers) on medium heat. Add the diced onions and saute for about five minutes, or until translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for another five minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the diced tomatoes and their juices and cook for another five minutes, or until heated and bubbling. Add one half of the roasted red peppers, as well as the sundried tomatoes. Stir in the tomato paste, water or red wine, nutritional yeast, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and sugar; mix well. Once heated through, reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, on medium-low for at least an hour, stirring every fifteen minutes or so. If the sauce gets too thick, add a splash of water.

2. About an hour out from dinner time, taste-test the sauce and add any extra seasonings to taste. Stir in the Kalamata olives and continue to simmer, covered on medium-low heat, for another half hour.

3. Add the sliced mushrooms and the rest of the roasted red peppers. Cover and continue to simmer for another half hour.

4. Prepare one pound of pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and mixed with the sauce. Bon app├ętit!

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