Tuesday, February 8, 2011


This is one of those months when I have less control over my cravings... healthy or not. For days, I've been dying for red sauce-- not just any red sauce, but our "house" sauce, a much evolved recipe originally based on several other recipes. The story goes like this:

When I met the hubby-man, and soon after began sharing his home, he loved to cook for me (those were the days!) and made sure to acquire some vegetarian cookbooks and recipes to help him out. He'd courted me with food to begin with-- pasta. And later a showing of Mystery Science Theatre's lampooning of the godawful movie Hobgoblins. And then we were an item, and then we were entertaining alot at home. Pasta was a regular feature.

After many pots of experimentation, (NOT experimentation with pot; that's another story) we had cobbled together a rich, flavorful sauce from a lovely orange-basil sauce by Bobbie Hinman, a simply perfect Arrabiata from Food and Wine magazine, and another recipe hubby-man had copied off the internet. I think I was the first to combine them, but back then, we both cooked often.

The "internet" sauce was herby with lots of oregano and rosemary, red wine, tempeh bacon for smokiness, whole green olives and lots of garlic. The Hinman sauce was lighter but just as pungent with fresh basil and orange peel. The main thing we took from F&W's easy sauce was the use of whole canned plum tomatoes and mega-amounts of red pepper flakes. The whole thing is so savory and satisfying I never want much with it, just the pasta it's adorning, a glass of red wine and maybe some salad in a basic olive oil dressing. We made it for years, in our Indianapolis home, and I'm sure our neighbors knew when we did!

But the sauce keeps evolving to suit new circumstances. Tonight, I'm doing it in my mini-crockpot, and it is a scratch version of the sauce in many ways-- no fresh basil, no olives, cheap soy-based fakin' bits instead of the good tempeh stuff we can only find at Wegman's. But it already smells wonderful-- the onions and garlic have cooked down, and I've substituted thinly sliced crookneck squash for the green pepper we used to throw in. And crushed tomatoes this time. Our house sauce, with a few changes. Still a rich blend of flavors, heavy on garlic and green herb notes but no basil at all. The last few times I've made it, balsamic vinegar has taken over for wine, and adds something beyond tang-- a little sweetness maybe, in this season when fresh basil is too extravagant to think about.

Too informal to be called a recipe, but this is what I've done--

Our House Sauce

For a medium saucepan or 1 1/2 qt. crockpot, you'll need:

1 Tbsp butter (opt.)
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 dried bay leaf (remove before serving)
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp or more dried rosemary
orange peel, fresh-- piece about the size of two quarters
crushed red pepper and salt to taste (start with 1/2 tsp or less each)
1/2 medium sweet, yellow or white onion, sliced or chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped fairly small
1/2 C sliced green or red pepper or crookneck squash or zucchini
2 Tbsp vegetarian bacon bits
2 tsp balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

Saute the herbs, onion and orange peel in oil and butter over medium heat in saucepan till softened and beginning to be translucent. Or, cook those together with garlic and other vegetables in crockpot on high for an hour.
Add remaining ingredients (+ garlic, if using saucepan) and cook on low in saucepan for 30-60 minutes (not above a simmer). For crockpot, all remaining ingredients and cook on high for half an hour and low for two or more after that, or low for about 4 hours. Either way, stir occasionally, and taste/adjust seasoning a short while before serving. Serve over hot chunky pasta such as ziti or penne.

On second thought, I might dash out for some olives-- we're out of wine anyway, and that is a craving I can't ignore tonight either.


  1. YUM!!!!!!!!!!!! Looks fantastic!!!

  2. Thanks, it was... and was again today, on a grilled provolone & peppers sandwich.