Monday, February 20, 2012

Belated Valentine Redux

(This will be the first of two posts today!  It's Ellis' 4th birthday today, but I did want to finally get the Valentine's stuff up first.  I was waiting on a camera download.)

Hope your Valentine's Day was lovely.  I am a big fan of this holiday.  I don't even care if it is some card manufacturer's marketing ploy.  A day for hearts and flowers is always welcome as far as I'm concerned.

Ellis had a wonderful time at his pre-school party.  His teacher loved our homemade Valentines even if the kids were more impressed with the candy and tattoos.  I felt proud that E was able to tell his teacher all about the process of making the crayon hearts and assembling the cards.  It felt like a win to me.

I spent most of my day cleaning and decorating the house.  Better late than never! In the afternoon, I made a special family dinner.  Spaghetti and sauce--Sarah's very most favorite meal--was on the menu.

I've always loved Spaghetti (which is what I thought was the name of tomato sauce and any kind of noodles for years!)  I have come to love pretty much every kind of tomato sauce that doesn't have green peppers.  I do have a soft spot for a meat sauce, since it's what my mom made when I was a kid.

I've refined my own recipe over the years, forever chasing the perfect tomato sauce.  I had a good thing going, but everything got turned on its ear when I came across this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  Butter?  What?  Turns out, that was the secret ingredient all along.

My own current recipe is a mixture of my own tomato sauce history plus new tricks from this Smitten Kitchen recipe.  It's good with or without meat.

Jen's Best Tomato Sauce

1-2 TBS. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 TBS. Butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped very small
1/4 cup red wine
salt, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper to taste
2 quarts home-canned tomatoes, mostly drained, water reserved
1 lb. ground beef, browned or Italian sausage (optional)

Prepare meat in advance, if using.
Heat butter and EVOO over medium low heat.  Add onion and garlic and sauté until onions are soft.
Add wine and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil until liquid is reduced by half.
Add tomatoes, spices and meat (if using).  Add extra tomato water if needed.  Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes or until yummy, checking and adjusting spices frequently to suit your palate.
Serve over pasta and garnish with grated parmesan cheese.

I urge you to experiment with many kinds of tomatoes sauces to find what works for you and your family.  I feel like my recipe is just a jumping-off point and works well as long as I have tomatoes, onions, garlic, and butter.

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