Standby pasta sauce

stirring the ingredients

pasta sauce

I call this my standby pasta sauce because it is the dinner I always turn to when I have failed to plan what to cook for dinner and it is already 5 o’clock. I put in whatever I have in the cupboard or fridge.  The base is a couple of cloves of garlic and a tin of tomatoes (or if it’s the summer and the greenhouse is in full flow a handful of fresh tomatoes whizzed to a passata in the blender), then I add a chilli if I have one or ½ tsp of dried chilli flakes, basil leaves or ½ tsp dried oregano. There is usually a chorizo sausage lurking in the fridge, and if I feel like it ( and have them in the cupboard) I add caper berries and olives. Tonight I had an aubergine that needed using up.  It is really adaptable and is quick to cook. The girls, of course, won’t consider spoiling their favourite dinner of plain pasta with anything that resembles a sauce, so this dinner has something for everyone!

The recipe below is the one I served tonight.

1-2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
1 400g tin of plum tomatoes (whizzed with a hand blender until smooth, but this isn’t absolutely necessary)
small handful of basil leaves, or ½ tsp dried oregano
1 chilli, chopped finely or ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
chorizo sausage, sliced into bite sized chunks
1 aubergine
salt and pepper

Chop the aubergine into cubes and fry in a pan with a little olive oil for two minutes over a medium heat.  Add the chorizo sausage and fry for another two minutes until both are browned.  Turn the heat down a little and add the garlic, chilli and basil leaves and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes and simmer for about ten minutes until the tomato sauce is thick.  Season to taste and serve with the pasta shape of your choice and plenty of parmesan cheese.

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Oven dried tomatoes

oven dried tomatoes

This is a really good way to preserve any glut of tomatoes that you may have.  My parents built a poly tunnel for my husband’s birthday present last year and we love it.  Our tomatoes have been really productive, although they did show signs of blight at the beginning of the summer. We chopped it out and they have provided us with a bounteous supply ever since. Those that haven’t been snaffled out of the bowl by the handful by the eldest daughter have made many a tomato inspired meal and with the rest we have made a couple of batches of passata for the freezer and several jars of these oven dried tomatoes.

I am lucky enough to cook on an aga which makes this way of preserving ideal as you can just leave them overnight in the warming oven and they are ready in the morning.

olive oil
sterilised jars

Wash the tomatoes and dry well. Slice the tomatoes in half and place onto a grill rack that is over a baking tray (to catch any spills and make it easy to put in and take out of the oven). Make sure they are well spaced and not touching. Sprinkle with salt and place in a low oven (100°c, or if your oven doesn’t go that low on its lowest setting).  Leave for anything from six hours to eighteen hours, it will depend on the size of your tomatoes. When they have dried out take them from the oven and leave to go completely cold. Place into a sterile jar and top up with olive oil.  Store in a dark place. Make sure that the tomatoes are always covered with oil, so top up if you need to as you use them.

I like mine in plain oil but if you prefer you can add vinegar to your oil or add herbs.  A sprig of thyme would be good, a bay leaf or perhaps a sprig of rosemary.

Don’t forget that once you have used your tomatoes, the oil will be deliciously tomatoey and will be good used in dressings or over pasta or used in tomato sauces.

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