Every summer my weekends are packed with cooking in an attempt to keep up with the garden bounty. While the specifics vary each year, depending on what I've grown and what has done well, the result is consistent - we primarily eat meals cooked with vegetables from the garden each July and August. That's why when I saw the "Grow Your Own" blogger event over at Andreas Recipes I knew I'd be participating.
I grow at least two types of tomatoes each year - slicing and sauce. The slicing tomatoes are wonderful just cut up and eaten raw or diced and tossed with pasta. The sauce tomatoes taste good raw but they really shine when made into sauces. Since I've already posted about my yearly batch of homemade ketchup I thought I'd post about one of my other summer garden cooking traditions - spaghetti and meatballs with homemade sauce. This is one meal that Husband requests every year. The sauce is a great use for the 5+ pounds of tomatoes I get each week and it uses some of my home grown basil, flat leaf parsley and garlic.
About the only downside of making this sauce is the amount of time it takes. Most of the time is spent prepping the tomatoes to remove the skin and seeds. If you want a smooth rather than chunky sauce then you can really reduce the prep time by simply putting the tomatoes through a food mill after cooking them a bit. But Husband and I like chunky sauce and for that the time is well spent.
My tomato sauce is based on this recipe from Cooking Light with some minor adaptations to use fresh tomatoes. First, I blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for a couple of minutes to loosen the skin. After removing the skin I cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds. Next, I dice the tomatoes and let them sit in a colander for a couple of hours to drain out excess water (otherwise yo will have a rather thin watery sauce...). And that's it the tomatoes are prepped. Once this is done you can proceed with the sauce recipe as is - just cook until the tomatoes are done. In fact, you can pretty much take any sauce recipe and replace fresh tomatoes with the above prep steps to make your own homegrown tomato sauce. Just be sure to taste the sauce as you season to accommodate the much more flavorful homegrown tomatoes.
Once a year I also add meatballs to the sauce. This year I tried a new recipe, also from Cooking Light, that initially cooks the meatballs in the oven. This really reduces the complexity (and clean-up) and the meatballs tasted great. I'll be using that recipe again next year.
While the tomato sauce cooked I made a batch of Parsley Pesto. If you've never had Parsley Pesto you simply have to try it. Imagine all of the greatness of basil pesto with the pizzazz of parsley! Yummmmmmmmmmmm! It made a great appetizer but I also use this for pizza to make quick summer meals.
And for those who are interested this year my summer garden includes several types of tomatoes (sauce tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes), two basil varieties (sweet and purple), flat leaf parsley, green beans, cucumbers, and of course the squash (zucchini, patty pan, butternut and butter cup). I also just planted some of the seeds for the fall/winter garden which will have Brussels sprouts, beets, Walla Walla onions, fava beans, snow peas, and garlic.