Tag Archives: Sauce

Roasted Tomato Pepper Sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce tf

If you are like me and enjoy homemade tomato sauce year round, this recipe will do the trick. While summer tomatoes are ideal for any tomato sauce, you can still manage a decent sauce with your supermarket variety. Start by roasting the tomatoes to coax out and concentrate their flavor – and don’t hold back on the seasoning. In this recipe I roasted an armful of plum tomatoes and added a roasted red pepper for extra sweetness and bold color. If decent plum tomatoes are nowhere to be found (it is March, after all), you can make the sauce with the ubiquitous grape tomatoes readily found in most shops. The key is to taste, taste, taste. Add a spoonful of sugar for the extra sweetness you miss.  Crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper add dimension to the sauce with a nice kick. And don’t be bashful when it comes to the salt. Keep on tasting, then let the sauce rest for a few moments to allow the flavors to meld. You will be pleased with the results: This no nonsense, faux summer sauce is a bright and fresh condiment to splash on pasta, smear on pizza, or layer into gratins any time of year.

Roasted Tomato Pepper Sauce

Grape tomatoes may be substituted for the plum tomatoes. Note that you will not be able to remove their skins, which will yield a more chunky sauce.

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds plum (roma) tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, quartered
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400°F. Brush the tomatoes and peppers with oil and season with salt. Arrange in a rimmed baking pan, cut side down. Roast until  softened, beginning to shrivel and slightly golden, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to the touch, then remove the skins. Combine the red bell pepper and tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent without coloring, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the roasted peppers and tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.

Shrimp Puttanesca

shrimp puttanesca x
~ Shrimp Puttanesca ~
It took me a long while to make puttanesca – that feisty Italian tomato sauce packed with briny, sharp, spicy, fishy flavors. I confess it was the anchovies. While I don’t mind anchovies, I don’t liberally cook with them either, harboring a childhood timidity toward their pungent fishiness. I should know better: Anchovies are a magical ingredient, a bright star in the cuisines of the Mediterranean and Asia (think fish sauce). When used with restraint, anchovies melt into a dish, amplifying flavor and producing an elusive umami quality that keeps us digging in for more. So in the spirit of the New Year and a kick in the derriere, I made this puttanesca-inspired sauce, and now I am smitten. Goodness knows why I waited so long.


Shrimp Puttanesca

Serve as is or tossed with spaghetti. This recipe may be prepared with other shellfish and fish such as clams, mussels, squid or firm fleshed fish filets.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovy filets, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, divided
2 cups grape or small cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup oil-cured or kalamata olives, pitted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
Salt
Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, anchovies and 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, white wine and capers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down and sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add a spoonful of sugar if needed. Keep warm.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in another skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes. Arrange the shrimp in one layer in the skillet and season with salt. Cook until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes, turning once. Arrange the shrimp on  a serving plate. Spoon the puttanesca sauce over and around the shrimp. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Summer Beach Grill Party: BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Last weekend we celebrated the summer solstice with our annual BBQ and bonfire at the beach. This is a Nordic tradition we happily packed up with us from Denmark, where the longest day of the year is celebrated in true viking-style with feasting, fire, libations, and an effigy which is burned to ward off evil spirits. Since the sun sets over the sea at 9 pm in California and not at midnight during the Scandinavian midnight sun, we enjoy an abbreviated version, Pacific-style, before the park rangers shepherd us off the beaches – or the residents call the police. This year was spectacular, with warm weather, tame winds and a hopping crowd of 50 wannabe vikings. As hosts, we took responsibility for the Danish beer, grillables and fire setting, while everyone else brought side dishes desserts, beach chairs, lots of kids and wine. It truly takes a village! On the menu were these sticky spiced ribs – inspired by a delectable recipe from my friend Karen who brought them along last year. (She is on tour in Italy right now with her band which is another story in itself.) Continue Reading Grilled BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage Ragout

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage Ragout

Change is in the air. We are moving house in a week, and while it’s a local move, it still requires dismantling a life, glass by glass, book by book. Our belongings are wrapped and boxed in ambiguous cartons that creep along and up the walls, towering over the furniture with an insistency that precludes denial. In a week our life will be unpacked in a new home and environment, our belongings liberated and rapidly arranged then rearranged to produce a new vignette. For now, the dust bunnies and memories swirl about, gathering in corners and getting in our heads. And our dog is behaving strangely. I think she is hoping and fearing that she will also be packed.

Change is cathartic. It’s also unsettling. For all of the moving we’ve done in our family life, you would think this would be a piece of cake – the next step in our family adventure. Is it because I am older now? Or perhaps it’s because the children are older, fully aware and present in this move, packing their belongings and looking forward to our next step in their teenaged lives – a time which guarantees uncertainty with or without a move. I see how they watch me and listen to my words and mood, using me as a measure, while secretly I watch them back, feeling curious and just a little guilty about this event. After all, I am their mother.

So I reflect on our previous moves, from one country to another, to languages I would have yet to learn, searching for homes and a community to insert myself and my family into. This time we are simply moving zip codes, but this move has its baggage, too. So, today I will do what I do best and what has always served us well. I will cook a comforting and nourishing family meal, and we will share it for dinner as we sit together at our well traveled kitchen table.

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage Ragout
Serves 4

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, cut in 1/4 inch dice
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, optional

1 pound spaghetti
Grated Parmigiano cheese
Chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and sauté until golden. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat in the pan. Add garlic, red pepper, oregano and chili flakes. Sauté 2 minutes. Add wine. Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If needed, add sugar.
While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain. Serve hot with the sauce spooned over. Garnish with cheese and parsley.

Boar Ragu with Pappardelle

Ever since a trip to Umbria last year when we ate a succulent wild boar ragu in an obscure village restaurant, I have had boar on my mind.  The ragu was served over a platter heaped with pappardelle. The meat was falling apart tender, dissolving in a rich wine sauce perfumed with juniper and cloves. Since then, that meal has been a popular conversation topic in our family when reflecting on our trip. So, I decided to try and make my own boar ragu.

Boar meat may be ordered from your butcher and, depending on where you live, you may find it in specialty stores that carry game meat. I ordered my meat from Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas, where they raise ranch-raised boar. The meat arrived frozen in a cooler box and I popped it into my freezer, so it would be ready when I devised a recipe.

The flavor of boar may be likened to a cross between pork and lamb. Boar meat is very lean and rich in protein. It has more protein than beef or pork and is lower in cholesterol than chicken. Not bad for an animal deemed an exotic pest in the U.S. Due to its mild gamey flavor and lack of fat, boar meat benefits from marinades and slow cooking, and it’s well matched with spirits and aromatic spices such as cloves and juniper.

Boar Ragu with Pappardelle

As the ragu simmers, the boar meat will absorb a good deal of the liquid. The ragu may be made up to 2 days in advance, allowing the flavors to develop with time. As an alternative to pasta, serve over polenta. Serves 4-6.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boar shoulder, cut in 1 inch chunks
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 large garlic cloves
1 – 28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juices
2 cups full-bodied red wine
4 bay leaves
Bouquet garni: 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries, 8 black peppercorns, 6 whole cloves, tied in cheese cloth with kitchen string

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Season boar all over with salt and pepper. Add boar to the skillet in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer meat to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Sauté onion, carrots and garlic, scraping up brown bits, until they begin to soften, 4 minutes. Return boar with any juices to the pan. Add tomatoes, red wine, bay leaves and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over very low heat, partially covered, until meat is falling tender and sauce is reduced by half, 2 hours. Serve with pappardelle and top with grated cheese.