Sunday, October 29, 2006

What to do with all that squash

We had a late (for us) spring here in northern Sonoma County due to late rains and chill. As a result the squash seedlings were planted late and recently, instead of late summer, I have been getting lots of squash. One of my favorite answers to the annual question of what to do with all that squash is to use it for my favorite pasta sauce.

The recipe is based on a vegetarian one that I found in the mid 70's in the Oakland Tribune. Over the years there have been lots of opportunites to change parts of it, so it's quite different than the original. It's a good way to stretch ground meat into a meal or two. It's also another recipe using canned goods. I swear I really do cook from scratch most of the time. Maybe the next post I'll do a from scratch one.

The thing I've found useful about this sauce is that the squash takes on the flavors of the herbs and tomatos fairly quickly, which means that a short time simmering gives intensity of flavor that would take much longer if the squash were replaced with meat.

When using the blender for this dish, pulse it and even remove the top and stir the mixture every couple of pulses so that the squash stays a little chunky. This gives the sauce a more meatly look than blending the mixture until the sauce is smoother.

Too Much Squash Pasta Sauce

1/2 lb ground meat if using (beef or turkey - I use turkey) (or 8 oz. sliced mushrooms)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium squash, cut into chunks (any summer squash, but zucchini works best)
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon dry basil
1/4 teaspoon dry rosemary
note - fresh oregano, basil and rosemary can be used - use twice as much, or more, to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In large skillet heat oil over medium high heat. Brown ground meat. Set aside.

If doing the meatless version, skip the browning. Just add the oil to the pan and proceed as below.
Using same pan, cook onion and garlic until translucent and barely brown, about 5 minutes, stirring now and then.

While meat (if using) and then onions/garlic cook, put half of squash in a blender. Add 1/2 of the can of tomato sauce and 1 tablespoon of water. Pulse blender, removing top and stirring every couple of pulses, until mixture is broken down but still chunky. Once onions have finished, pour this mixture into the pan. Lower heat to simmer and deglaze the pan with the tomato mixture, scraping up the browned bits.

Return browned meat to the pan and stir (if using meat). Put the rest of the squash into the blender, add rest of tomato sauce, pulse the same way the first batch was done. Add this batch to the pan of meat mixture and stir.

Add diced tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper to pan, stir. If not using meat, add 8 oz. sliced mushrooms to the pan along with the diced tomatoes and seasonings.

Return to boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer at least 2 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes to avoid scorching. (The longer the sauce simmers, the better it will taste.)

While sauce is simmering, bring large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions on package, until al dente. Drain pasta well.

Put generous serving of pasta on plate. Top with pasta sauce and garnish with fresh basil and/or good parmesan cheese shards.

note - this sauce tastes even better if allowed to cool and left in the refrigerator overnight to blend the flavors. Reheat over low heat until simmering.

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for your comment on Tea & Cookies, Elle. This pasta sauce looks delicious--I must try it soon! There's always so much squash left at the end of the summer, it's great to have some more creative ways to use it.

    I look forward to visiting you again!