30 Minute Tomato Sauce

30 Minute Tomato Sauce 3After spending a week in New York visiting family, you would think I’ve had my fill of Italian food. And while I certainly did indulge in all of the delicious pasta and pizza, I can never really get enough. Since I made a big batch of Homemade Ricotta Cheese, I had more than enough after making a Hot Soppressata Pizza for other meals during the week.  It doesn’t get much better than tomato sauce with a big dollop of cool, creamy Homemade Ricotta!  Since the pizza recipe doesn’t call for any tomato sauce, I needed to make a batch of 30 Minute Tomato Sauce in a pinch.

 

Typically, I make a big batch of tomato sauce that simmers away for hours, and freeze several containers for use over the next couple of months. That is still my favorite way. But when dinner needs to be on the table in 30 minutes, this is my go to recipe.

30 Minute Tomato Sauce 2I use canned whole tomatoes rather than crushed or pureed for a couple of reasons. The primary reason is that I think the best tomatoes (freshest and best looking) are left intact for canning. I don’t know if this is really true, but it seems that way to me. The second reason is that the texture of the sauce can be changed based on what I’m making. Sometimes I want my sauce a little chunkier and using whole tomatoes lets me control the amount of the squish! That’s a technical cooking term by the way.

Ingredients:
2 28 oz. cans of whole plum tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 small shallots, minced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil (optional)

30 Minute Tomato Sauce 1Pour whole tomatoes with their liquids into a large bowl. Using your hands, squish tomatoes to desired consistency. If you like a really smooth tomato sauce, they can be pureed in a food processor.
Preheat a medium saucepan on medium-low heat and sauté minced shallots and garlic in olive oil until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning, sugar, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper and fresh basil. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sauce is a little watery, increase heat to medium and simmer for 5-10 minutes more. Enjoy!

Italian Sausage and Gnocchi Soup

Italian Sausage and Gnocchi SoupThis comforting soup is so easy to make, thanks to the prepackaged gnocchi that cook directly in the soup. Gnocchi, small potato dumplings that cook in just a few minutes, can be found vacuum-packed in the pasta aisle (I got mine at Trader Joe’s). An added bonus – the starches from the gnocchi release into the soup while cooking, which thicken the hearty broth and guarantee to warm you up on a chilly evening. Add some spicy turkey sausage, diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, shallots and zucchini, and you’ve got a healthy, flavorful, balanced meal that is ready in about 30 minutes.

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb. Italian turkey sausage links (hot or mild)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes (including liquids)
3 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. Italian seasoning
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 lb. potato gnocchi
2 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes
15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

Italian Sausage and Gnocchi Soup 2Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook sausage links in shallow baking pan until cooked throughout, about 15 minutes. In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil on medium-low heat, until shallots and garlic sizzle when added. Sauté shallots and garlic until fragrant, about 2 minutes, add diced tomatoes with liquid, chicken broth, sugar, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper, and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Turn heat up to medium and add gnocchi and zucchini. Bring back up to a light boil, and cook 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently, until both are cooked. While gnocchi and zucchini are simmering, slice sausage links into discs. Add cannellini beans and sausage and stir until heated, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately and top with grated cheese.

Enjoy!

Wine Pairing:
Poggio al Casone Toscana 2010

(Make ahead tip: If you are planning to make this in advance, prepare gnocchi as directed on package, store separately from soup, and add gnocchi to soup as it’s reheating.  This will prevent the gnocchi from absorbing too much of the soup liquid while storing and becoming mushy.)