Although the weather this week in Chicago is incredible, the cool nights have me thinking about winter’s inevitable descent. The thought is pleasant with all the leaves still firmly attached to the trees, but come January I know I will be looking for cheap Mexico flights.
In the meantime, big batches of hearty sauces and stews are in order. You’ll enjoy them on a fall night and think fondly of fluffy snowflakes and cozy socks. In a few months, you’ll throw frozen blocks of them in the microwave when you’re getting home from work and it’s already been dark for two hours and the snowpile blocking your parking spot has crusted over from the skin-stinging breath of winter. But you’ll be thankful you made this.
Chunky Tomato Sauce with Olives:
1/4 C. XVOO
2 small yellow or white onions, small dice
1 C. carrot, small dice
1/2 C. celery, small dice
1 head of garlic (12-15 cloves), peeled and sliced
3 Tbsp. tomato paste (I buy the tubes – they last for months)
1 1/2 C. dry red or white wine (I used white Bordeaux and it was perfect)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. dried oregano
3 large cans (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes, smashed in a ziploc bag*
24 olives, whichever you fancy, pitted and halved
a nice hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
Warm a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Saute the onion, carrot, celery and garlic slices for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until very soft and fragrant. Season with plenty of salt.
Once softened, stir in you tomato paste and cook another 2 minutes, until the paste is thoroughly distributed and is beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan a bit.
Add your wine, oregano and bay leaf and stir to pick up and bits off of the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium high.
*Pour one can of tomatoes at a time into a gallon Ziploc bag, seal and squeeze the tomatoes to break them up into chunks. Carefully pour the crushed tomatoes into the pot and repeat with the other cans.
Add your Parm rind and your olives and bring the sauce to a simmer. Reduce to a low bubble and cook for one hour or until reduced and thick. Stir occasionally and monitor the temperature to prevent sticking.
This recipe makes at least 3 quarts of this great vegetarian sauce, so freeze two for a later date.
A great way to add protein: For a quart of sauce, buy two of your favorite sausages (we like it with mild chicken Italians). While the sauce reheats, squeeze the sausages out of their casings and into a hot saute pan. Break it up with a wooden spoon and cook let it brown on the outside. Then transfer to the simmering sauce and cook for 10 minutes to finish.
Serve tossed with your favorite pasta or over a bowl of warm polenta.