Doctoring the Sauce :)
I usually make my own pasta sauce these days. If I am in a hurry, I will at least add some fresh herbs from plants that I bring indoors for the winter and a fresh tomato or two to a jar of sauce and give it at least a bit of a simmer. But the other night, I REALLY wanted homemade sauce but ran out of time. So, off to Farmland I went to see what I could find.
One of the reasons I like to make my own sauce from canned or “frozen from my summer gardening” tomatoes is because I have control over the sodium level. I look for canned tomatoes with little or no sodium, 15-30 grams per ½ cup, versus the usual 200-300 mgs or so.
And, goodness knows I like to support charities, as does buying the Newman’s Own™ brand, but Newman’s sauces, as tasty as they are, are all on the higher end of sodium levels, with an average of 600 mgs sodium per ½ cup. I have often bought Classico ™ since it tastes pretty good and some flavors come in at350-450 mgs per ½ cup.
But, imagine my surprise when I discovered Pastene’s ™ Chateau Marina Sauce coming in at 190 mgs sodium per ½ cup, and my even greater surprised when I tasted it right out of the jar. It is REALLY tasty!
Bright is the word I would (well, did, I guess!) use to describe the flavor. That and fresh. I highly recommend it as is. But of course, I seldom leave jarred sauce well enough alone. <grin> And, what I discovered was a way to create an amazing, truly homemade, all-day simmered tasting sauce in under two hours. I will add that the sauce tasted so good from the beginning that I didn’t even bother to add additional dried or fresh herbs.
When at Farmland, I bought 2 sweet and 2 hot sausages, a bit over ¾ lb. ground sirloin, 6 medium fresh mushrooms, and two 24 oz. jars of the Pastene ™ Chateau Marina Sauce.
When I got home, I immediately sliced the sausage crosswise about an inch in thickness (4-5 slices per sausage) and also cut a big fresh red bell pepper into very thick slices. I mixed in about 3 Tablespoons of EVO and popped it all into a 350 degree oven, uncovered, with the timer set to check them at 45 minutes.
Then I made some meatballs – just a very basic recipe – there are a million online. I added chopped onion, dried oregano, marjoram, and thyme, an egg, breadcrumbs, and oatmeal to the ground beef. I just realized that I did NOT add freshly ground black pepper! That was probably a first. I put that in just about everything!
Once the meatballs were formed, I set them aside in the fridge while put the jarred sauce in a pot and over a medium flame to get it up to heat. Then I chopped up an onion and a green bell pepper, sliced the mushrooms, minced a few cloves of garlic, and sautéed the lot in some olive oil until tender. After putting the sautéed veggies in the sauce, I added a bit more olive oil to the frying pan and browned the meatballs. That was a little messy and the meatballs did not stay round, but once in the sauce, the looks didn’t really matter. J
Once the meatballs were well-browned, I added them to the sauce, and added the baked sausage and red pepper when that was nicely browned and sizzling a bit – 50 minutes, I think it was. I did NOT add any of the remaining fat in either pans to the sauce.
I then let the sauce simmer on low for about 45 minutes. And that was that. It was scrumptious!! I will still make my own sauce when I can get an hour or two earlier start, but this worked for me in a relative pinch.
When done, I tossed the pasta with fresh pressed olive oil and also complicated the meal with a wonderful multigrain flaxseed bread from Farmland and more of that fresh pressed olive oil. Sometimes, it doesn’t take hours and hours or a ton of money to create a little heaven on earth.
[NOTE: Next time I may bake or broil the meatballs if the timing works out. Although, I have seen recipes that say to just form the meatballs and pop them right into the sauce to simmer until done. If baked sausages is also used, perhaps there is no need to get the extra flavor from browning the meatballs and a step can be saved.]