Italian food? What’s that?

My mother is a very good cook, but 40 years ago this small town didn’t have a lot in the way of exotic ingredients. Most spice cabinets then consisted of paprika (for sprinkling over deviled eggs), onion salt (for tomato sandwiches) and garlic powder.

Don’t get me wrong–we ate very well, and very healthily with lots of green vegetables and not too many processed, packaged foods. But a  look in my pantry and refrigerator today shows lots of items that probably weren’t sold within 20 miles of here when I was growing up–basalmic vinegar, curry paste, pesto and Maldon salt. Italian, Mexican and Chinese foods were things you found in Nashville, but not here.

Today we use those ingredients without thinking twice–picking them up at any area grocery store.

Today’s recipe is not one that includes a lot of fancy ingredients–it’s a simple marinara sauce that takes full advantage of the late summer glut of tomatoes. The recipe comes from this book which I bought in Napa Valley several years ago. The sauce freezes well and gives you a taste of summer in the middle of winter. I use half the amout of oil called for here, but you can decide if you want to cut it.

1 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

1 c diced onions

1 c diced celery

1 c diced carrot

(this mixture of onion, carrot and celery is known as mirepoix and is the basis for many sauces, soups and stews)

2 T chopped garlic

2 lbs ripe tomatoes, quartered

1/4  c fresh basil, chopped


Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the mirepoix and garlic and cook for 15 minutes. Don’t let them brown. Add tomatoes and stir and cook for another 30 minutes or so–until the tomatoes are all melty and the carrots are soft.

Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in basil.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, now would be a good time to go get one. The sauce can wait while you run to Wal-Mart or K-Mart or whichever mart is closest. You can get a perfectly good one for under $20 and you won’t believe how much you’ll use it.

Now, take your immersion blender and let it go on that sauce. You’ll be amazed at the color and the texture. Taste for seasoning and enjoy.

This recipe doubles easily, and you might as well go on and make extra.



Filed under Recipe

4 responses to “Italian food? What’s that?

  1. “summer glut of tomatoes” makes me think of Marge Piercy’s poem, “Attack of the squash people”. I’ve just been attacked by the squash and the green bean people. Recipes please!

  2. I’ve always used canned tomatoes for sauce, with the current glut, and a hankering for some fall food, now’s the time for some fresh tomato sauce.

    • Dave, canned is always preferable to grocery store fresh, but if you can get some good, locally grown fresh ones, you’ll be amazed at the flavor of the sauce. Give it a try! I have equally good luck with Bradleys and Romas…there’s a type of oversized Romas I can get around here, starts with an “M” but I can’t remember exactly. Anyhow, let me know what you think.

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