David Theiss: Home for your tomatoes (recipe)

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After the tender care of your garden all summer, fall brings the excitement of harvest and rewards for your hard work. This year tomatoes seem to have grown well and the crop is bountiful! Today I am going to suggest a pasta sauce recipe, using those luscious tomatoes, that will do justice to all the time you spent growing them!

Tomato origins trace back to the early 700s. Believed to be native to the Americas, it was not introduced to Europe until the 1500s. In those days people thought the tomato was poisonous, but wealthy people during that time used flatware made of pewter with a high lead content. When foods with a high acidic value, like tomatoes, reacted with the plates, lead was leached into the food, causing lead poisoning. Lower classes, especially in Italy, at that same time used plates made of wood and successfully ate tomatoes for hundreds of years; it was known by the Italians as “pomo d’oro” or “golden apple.” The first known mention of the tomato was in 1548 in Tuscany as an ingredient in a cookbook, but it was not considered as a delicacy for another 200 years.

By the late 1700s the peasants in Italy were putting tomatoes on top of their flat breads — likely a precursor of today’s pizza. By the 1800s Italian immigrants brought tomatoes with them to the United States which popularized their use — especially with the creation of pizza.

Tomatoes are now a common staple in most kitchens, but the question remains, is it a fruit or vegetable? By definition a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant, usually eaten raw; however, fruits that are not sweet such as tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers, are identified as vegetables. Previous to the late 1800s the tomato was categorized as a fruit, to escape taxation, but after the Supreme Court case Nix vs. Hedden in 1893, the court unanimously ruled that the tomato is a vegetable and should be taxed accordingly.

Tomatoes, with their long history, have definitely become a large part of the world’s diet, and with the variety of uses, they can be used in many dishes. Today I am going to suggest using some of those garden delights, especially those tomatoes, you have grown to make a wonderful sauce to top a plate of pasta.

Marinara sauce is made of tomatoes with a variety of herbs, and spices and has no meat. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on a meat sauce called Bolognese which is described as a tomato-based sauce with meat in it. Bolognese style sauces were developed in Imola, Italy near Bologna in the 18th century. Used to dress Italian dishes like lasagna or ragu, this sauce usually includes ingredients like: tomatoes, onions, garlic, beef, pork, and possibly wine, cooked slowly to let all the ingredients marry, producing a thick delicious sauce.

This Bolognese sauce recipe today is going to make those delicious tomatoes from your back yard turn in to a thick and yummy pasta topping. (Or for when those tomatoes are not readily available you can use store-bought or canned.) Because I love a thick meaty sauce over pasta, I am going to suggest using beef and sausage. I make a mild Italian sausage that really complements the other flavors in the sauce, but if you prefer a little spiciness, I also have other delicious suggestions. Hot Italian sausage provides the same great flavors as the mild but with a little heat. Paired with the ground beef it gives just a little extra kick to spark your taste buds. Cajun Creole sausage imparts various flavors like bell pepper, garlic, onion, without a lot of heat — very delicious in its own right. Also, chicken Italian sausage is a great low-fat alternative and offers the same great flavors as its pork cousin — less fat but equally as flavorful. I make all of these sausages fresh and in-store using no preservatives! Let’s get started!

Preparing your tomatoes for the sauce:

4 large tomatoes

Bring water to a boil in a large pot on the stove with a large bowl of ice water on the counter nearby. Prepare the tomato by corning the stem out of the top and slicking a shallow x in the bottom on the tomato with a knife. Then drop them into the boiling water for about 45 seconds to a minute. Just as the skin begins to wrinkle, remove and put tomatoes into the ice bath and let cool for a minute. Once removed from the water use a small knife and remove the skin off of the tomatoes. Cut into 3/4-inch cubes and put into a food processor. Add 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and a tablespoon lemon juice. Pulse until you achieve the consistency you like — small chunks or purée.

Prepare your sausages:

1 lb links or bulk

Remove casing if linked. In fry pan break apart large chunks into small pieces while sautéing. Cook until brown and reserve.

Now you are ready to prepare the rest of your sauce.

This sauce recipe is great for a lot of different pasta dishes, lasagna, or tagliatelle, but I’m going to stick with my favorite: Spaghetti Bolognese!

Bolognese Meat Sauce:

Add homemade tomato puree (from above) in to a larger sauce pan.

(Or if you didn’t have the time use 28 oz can crushed tomatoes)

1 can tomato paste

1 pound ground chuck

1 pound Italian sausage, or your choice of my other suggestions

Salt and pepper to taste

1 small onion chopped into small pieces

2 cloves garlic minced

1 cup water

1/4 cup fresh basil chopped finely

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese - (1/4 cup reserved for topping)

Brown the ground chuck and sausage in a frying pan while breaking apart into small pieces while cooking. Do not drain as your beef and sausage are of good quality and should have just the right amount of fat. Remove the cooked meat and incorporate into the saucepan with tomato. In a pan with the rest of the fat drippings, lightly cook the chopped onion and garlic until translucent. Combine and simmer all the other ingredients (except the Parmesan cheese) in the saucepan under low heat stirring often. Italian meat sauce is a labor of love and time is your friend; the longer it simmers the better it becomes. At the very last minute, before serving, add the Parmesan cheese into sauce and stir until incorporated. It’s now ready to serve over some

Al dente spaghetti pasta!

For the low-fat version just use Chicken Italian Sausage by its self, no beef.

Buon appetito!

David Theiss Owner of Butler Gourmet Meats, serving Carson City for more than 46 years.


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