I’ve been craving a really good, homemade Italian dinner for quite a while. My mom’s garden produced a beautiful bounty of tomatoes, so I decided to use some of them to cook up a storm on Sunday.
I made organic, yellow, heirloom tomato sauce with Italian sausage served over angel hair pasta, caesar salad with homemade dressing and homemade croutons and lastly (because no Italian feast is complete without it) garlic bread. To complete the meal, I served my favourite wine, Santa Cristina Casasole. It’s a delicious, refreshing white wine that is produced close to the small hill town of Cortona in Tuscany, Italy. I studied there for a semester while in university.
Organic Yellow Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage and Angel Hair*
* Note: this recipe is not very exact as it will depend on the tomatoes you have (how sweet or acidic they are) and your specific tastes.
– fresh tomatoes
– olive oil
– cider vinegar
– tomato paste
– italian sausage
1. Chop up the italian sausage and brown it in a large frying pan. Once cooked, remove from pan and put in bowl lined with paper towel to drain off excess grease. I like to use the spicy Johnsonville sausage meat.
2. While the sausage is browning begin prep for the sauce. If using fresh tomatoes, remove their skins. The best way to do this is to score the tomatoes on the bottom and then dip them into simmering water for about 30 seconds. Run the tomato under cool water to stop the cooking process and then the skin should easily peel right off. I have never skinned tomatoes before, however it was surprisingly easy.
3. Add a good splash of olive oil to a medium sized heavy pot. Then add 2 tablespoons of roughly chopped onion and 2 gloves of garlic, minced. Allow the garlic and onion to sweat for abour 4 minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes to the dutch oven and allow the sauce to simmer for at least half an hour.
Then add chopped basil and using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until smooth. The pot I used wasn’t quite big enough, so I transferred the sauce to a large bowl to blend it, to ensure I didn’t make a mess.
Taste the sauce and add, salt, sugar, tomato paste and cider vinegar to adjust to suit your taste. At this point, I added about 1 tablespoon of tomato paste to intesify the tomato flavour and about a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.
5. Add the cooked Italian sausage and keep the sauce simmering to allow the flavour to further develop and the sauce to thicken. Ensure you stir the sauce occasionally as the puree can settle to the bottom of the pan and scorch. Serve over your favourite pasta and enjoy!
While the sauce was cooking, I prepared the rest of the meal.
Homemade Garlic Croutons
– 2 slices of leftover bread
– olive oil
1. Turn on the oven to about 350ºF.
2. Add a good splash of olive oil to a large frying pan and start to heat over medium heat. Meanwhile, slice the bread into cubes and very roughly chop the garlic into a few pieces.
3. Add the garlic to the oil and allow it to simmer in the oil until the oil is fragrant. Do not burn the garlic. Remove the garlic chunks from the oil.
4. Take the oil off the heat and toss the bread chunks with the oil. Spread the bread on a baking sheet, lightly salt and put in the oven to brown. Watch the croutons carefully, as they can burn. Once toasted all over, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Homemade Caesar Dressing
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– anchovies or anchovy paste
– heaping teaspoon dijion mustard
– a few dashes worcestershire sauce
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
1. Mix together all ingredients in a glass jar. Adjust anchovies, worcestershire sauce and mustard to taste. Many caesar dressings use an egg as an emulsifier, however I chose to use mustard as I wanted the dressing to keep until the next day.
2. Toss dressing with romaine lettuce, croutons and parmesan for a delicious caesar salad.
The tomato sauce turned out really, really good. There was a strong tomato taste and the addition of the Italian sausage gave the sauce a bit of a kick. The colour was a little different than your typical tomato sauce, as I used mostly yellow tomatoes, but that didn’t change the flavour. The flavour of the sauce reminded me of the tomato sauce at this little Trattoria in Cortona that we called “Mario’s.” Very, simple flavours… but very good.
The caesar salad was also really good… as long as you like garlic. The only issue I had is I found the croutons a tiny bit tough, but I think that is because of the bread I used. White bread always seems to give the best results, but I used a homemade multigrain bread this time.
Good Italian food always transports me back to Italy… reminds me of the many great adventures I had while I was there.