Monday, September 12, 2011

Late Summer Pasta with Sweet Pepper, Zucchini, and Tomato Sauce

Plate of Rigatoni Topped with Sauce
Homemade Tomato Sauce on Rigatoni

Recipe by Robin

At this time of year, we get three lbs. of tomatoes or more from our CSA Farm every week. And many northern hemisphere gardeners have even bigger tomato harvests now. Homemade tomato sauces not only put the tomato bounty to good use, but also taste infinitely fresher and sweeter than their canned bretheren.

This recipe is a variation of Late Summer Pasta with Leek, Pepper, and Tomato Sauce. I’ve used zucchini because their green color compliments the sauce, and because most US gardeners have plenty right now. I was a little short on red (Early Girl) tomatoes, so I added some Sungold cherry tomatoes to make up the difference.

Containers of Chopped Onion, Garlic, Tomatoes, Zucchini, with Basil
Prepare all Ingredients First
Feel free to improvise with any late summer veggies that you have on hand. Summer squash of any variety can be substituted for zucchini, or added to it. Bell peppers can be used instead of sweet red peppers, or use a variety of peppers. Experiment with a hot chili pepper or two, or diced eggplant. Substitute leeks, shallots, or scallions for the onion. Decrease or increase the quantities of each veggie as your mood or refrigerator contents dictates.

Again, the rules for improvising successfully: add each veggie separately and cook it down a bit, stirring frequently. Start with onions and garlic, then add hardest veggies first and work towards softest (the tomatoes!). Fresh herbs go in towards the end to preserve their flavor. Dry herbs go in with the tomatoes, so they can get hydrated. If you find yourself short on tomatoes, add ¼ to ½ cup red wine with the tomatoes to make more sauce or add a small can of tomato sauce.

Tomatoes Beginning to Cook
You can make an all-veggie sauce without the “Meal Starter Recipe Crumbles,” but you’ll need to cook it longer to thicken the sauce, since the crumbles absorb liquid. You could substitute any sort of veggie burger (broken up) for the crumbles, though the price of the crumbles is less per pound. Note that MorningStar Farm Crumbles are a combination of soy protein and wheat gluten (TVP), and contain small amounts of egg whites and skim milk, so are not vegan. Their ingredients are real foods, not preservatives and other chemicals. One package of Crumbles will give you the equivalent of 1 lb. ground meat, but with less impact on the environment.

Go ahead and improvise with quantities and types of veggies as you like. Please post your recipe if you find a winning combination

Plate of Rigatoni Topped with Sauce and Grated Parmesan
Served with Parmesan
Late Summer Pasta with Sweet Pepper, Zucchini, and Tomato Sauce
serves about 8

1 large onion, ~9 oz. diced
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
12 small sweet peppers (14 oz), diced, about 3 1/4 cups
2 medium zucchini, ~1 ¼ lb.
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
1 package MorningStar Farms “Meal Starters Recipe Crumbles”
3 lbs. ripe tomatoes
1 tsp. dry oregano
1 tsp. dry marjoram
½ cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips and packed
½ tsp. salt or to taste
¼ tsp. pepper or to taste
Rotini wholegrain pasta, or other pasta

Wash and prepare (dice, mince) onion, garlic, and peppers, as above. Put into separate bowls or containers.

Cut off ends of zucchini, slice in half lengthwise (if medium-large) and cut into 3/8 inch slices.

Wash tomatoes and cut into wedges, removing core (top where stem attached) and any bad spots. Extra-ripe (squishy) tomatoes are fine, and don’t discard the seeds, which have a lot of flavor.

Boil water for pasta. Cook pasta according to directions. Whole grain rotini takes about 9 minutes. The sauce must cook at least 10 minutes when tomatoes are added, so add pasta to the water while tomatoes are cooking.

I use an electric frying pan at about 350 degrees F for the sauce. Heat olive oil, add onions and sauté about 3 minutes, till cooked down a bit. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, stirring around frequently.

Add chopped peppers and sauté 2 - 3 minutes, till peppers start to release their juices. Then add zucchini and sauté another 3 minutes, stirring frequently to cook all zucchini pieces equally.

Add tomatoes and cook covered for about 5 minutes, till tomatoes have released liquid and look soft, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and stir in the dry oregano and marjoram. Sauté  5 more minutes to boil off some of the liquid and thicken the sauce. If you’re not using veggie crumbles, you might want to cook sauce longer to make it thicker.

Stir in veggie crumbles, salt, and pepper. Heat to boiling, stirring to be sure all veggie crumbles are hot. Stir in basil and serve.

Serve over pasta and top with grated Parmesan cheese if desired. I’ve used leftovers to make “Sloppy Fauxs” (like Sloppy Joes but vegetarian!) by serving sauce over wholegrain burger buns or sandwich rounds.

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