Saturday, August 22, 2015

GF Pasta With 'Too Many Zucchinis' Sauce

It's that time of the harvest season again when the zucchinis are producing like crazy and challenging cooks to find ways to use them up. Although I enjoy zucchini cookies and quick breads/tea cakes, my favorite way to eat them is just grilled with a spritz of olive oil to keep them from sticking to the grill grates.

My second favorite way is to use them in this pasta sauce. This recipe is almost 40 years old and comes from the food section of the Oakland, CA newspaper the Oakland Tribune. It was originally a vegetarian recipe but since the men I marry are meat and potato kinds of guys, I soon figured out a way to add some ground meat. First I went with ground beef, but for about 30 years I've used ground turkey instead and I like it better that way. You can also just skip the meat, add more squash and tomato sauce and a little extra olive oil to the pan, and it makes a wonderful vegan sauce. The great thing about zucchini is that it soaks up whatever flavors you put with it. Make this sauce a half hour before you eat and it almost tastes like you have been simmering it for hours, especially with the no meat version.

You can also make a lot of this without the meat and freeze it for future meals. If you are really handy you can take fresh tomatoes and peel, core and seed them, chop the tomato that is left and use it instead of the canned diced tomatoes. That's what I did this time and it gave it an intense, end of summer tomato flavor and color.

Now that I am eating gluten free I took some time and found a wonderful rice based pasta to serve the sauce with. It is not vegan since it has eggs, but if that isn't a concern for you it might be worth finding out if it is sold in a store near you, or check out the online link HERE. The brand is jovial and I used their tagliatelle traditional whole grain egg pasta. It seemed to take a little longer to cook than I had expected, but you would never know it was gluten free...the taste and texture were just like the best wheat based pasta.

Too Much Squash Pasta Sauce

1/2 lb ground meat (beef or turkey - I use turkey)
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.

Using same pan, cook onion and garlic until translucent and barely brown, about 5 minutes, stirring now and then.

While meat 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. 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.

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. Cooking it the day before it is served, chilling overnight and reheating right before serving, is even better.)

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.

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