Monday, July 31, 2023

My Favorite Way To Use Up Zucchini

It's that time of year...the zucchini are producing like mad. You may have a neighbor who, in desperation, delivers extra zucchini around the neighborhood under cover of night...or in person during the daylight. Perhaps you planted a few too many plants yourself and now you are looking for another way to use some of it up. Either way, I have the recipe for you.

I discovered this way of using up zucchini over 40 years ago. One of the lovely things about zucchini is that it's pretty bland. It also soaks up the flavors that are cooked with it. You'll love this veggie-rich pasta sauce because you can simmer it for a half hour and it tastes like it has been cooking all day, with the flavors getting richer all the time.

To start you are best off if you have a blender. No blender? How about a food processor? Not good with that? How about a box grater? If you have one of those three, you can make this recipe.

You'll also need a good sized skillet or Dutch oven because this make a lot of pasta sauce. Check out the ingredients called for, too. The spices make this dish, so I hope that they aren't too old.

I use a blender and put half the zucchini pieces in, add half a can of tomato sauce, a couple tablespoons of water and then pulse it until the mixture looks like ground beef mixed with tomato sauce. You can also blend it further if you prefer a smoother sauce. Choose your favorite pasta or ravioli to cook and serve this sauce with the pasta and a bit of grated Parmesan and you have a fine meal...that uses up zucchini. It tastes even better the next day after sitting 24 hours in the fridge.

You can make this sauce with no meat and it is delicious. You can also brown either ground beef, ground turkey or chicken, or Italian sausage to mix into the finished sauce and you get a heartier sauce. Without the meat this also makes a great sauce for putting thinly on a pizza crust or, a bit more thickly, on the inside of a calzone.

Too Much Squash Pasta Sauce

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)
2 15 oz. cans 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
1/2 lb ground meat if using (beef, turkey, or Italian sausage - I use turkey) (or 8 oz. sliced mushrooms)

Optional: fresh basil and/or good Parmesan cheese

 Add the oil to a large skillet or Dutch oven and, over medium-high heat, cook onion and garlic until translucent and barely brown, about 5 minutes, stirring now and then.

While onions/garlic cook, put half of squash in a blender (or food processor). Add 1/2 of the can of tomato sauce and 2 tablespoons of water. Pulse blender, removing top and stirring every couple of pulses, until mixture is broken down but still chunky or process in food processor until mixture still has some texture. 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. (Note: no blender or food processor? If you have a box grater, grate the zucchini and then add to the pan along with all the tomato sauce.)

 Put the rest of the squash into the blender, add rest of that can of tomato sauce, pulse the same way the first batch was done. Add this batch to the pan of meat mixture and stir. Add the additional can of tomato sauce and stir to combine.

Add diced tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper to pan, stir. If not using meat [see blow] (or if you just also want mushrooms), 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.)

If desired, you can add meat  for a more complex taste. In large skillet heat oil over medium high heat. Brown ground meat. Stir drained meat into sauce until well combined. Continue to simmer.

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. I really wish I liked summer squashes more... This is the ONLY way to use up squash in large amounts - other than grilled or in zucchini bread, I just cannot deal with the texture. And my parents grow truckloads every year!