Sunday, May 1, 2016

Italian Tomatoes and Meat Sauce

Photos courtesy of the Cooking Corner.
    A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law dropped by for a visit and told us about these Italian tomatoes she found at the store that were just superb. I had an idea that she had to be talking about San Marzano tomatoes, which are what the chefs on TV use. I just didn't know that you could get them locally. Curiosity came into play so I had to try them myself.
    These particular plum tomatoes have a sweet flavor, are low in seeds as well as acidity and are easy to peel. They are an excellent tomato for sauces because they thicken and sweeten as they cook. Now, I understand all of the hype. There very well could be something to vine-ripened and handpicked.
    Normally when I make a pasta sauce, I start with a jar or can of store bought sauce as a base and doctor it up with herbs and spices. But with these Italian tomatoes I didn't even have to add some tomato paste as a thickener. It was just herbs, simmer and go. You'll have too see for yourself what a difference real Italian tomatoes makes to the sauce.

Italian Tomatoes and Meat Sauce
1 can (28 oz.) San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 T. olive oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 (12 oz.) pkg. Italian sausage
    (I used Farmington chicken sausage with mozzarella and bell peppers), sliced
1/4 pkg. angel hair pasta
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. fennel seed (optional)
5 fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Fill medium pot 3/4's full of water. Sprinkle with salt and a splash of olive oil. Bring to boil. Add pasta and bring to boil, cooking for 7 minutes. Set aside.

While pasta is cooking heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. When hot, but not smoking, add bell peppers, onion and red pepper flake if using. Cook 5 minutes until they soften. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring often.

Add chunks of Italian sausage and cook 2-3 minutes more. Stir to prevent sticking and over browning. Pour in tomatoes and add spices. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least 20-30 minutes.

Drain pasta and cover with lid to keep warm. Stir to separate.

Place pasta on plate and top with sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan just before serving.
Serves 4.


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