Something had to be done about the endless canned tomatoes in our basement. With winter at its end, my creativity has run out. Any original or unique aspirations I had for the contents of those jars have subsided. It's time to make gravy. With Spring teasing us, my taste buds were primed for something fresh so I decided on a simple, versatile tomato-basil gravy.
|one tomato shelf is cleared!|
7 quarts canned tomatoes
garlic to taste (I used two heads)
frozen basil pesto (about a cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt to taste
One could use fresh or dried spices. I used basil pesto because I had about a cup of it on hand--the last frozen pesto in the deep freeze. The basil holds its flavor well that way. This is a very simple gravy--no fancy ingredients or techniques. It highlights the tomato, which deserves attention. A homegrown tomato has unparalleled flavor.
Coarsely chop garlic and add to oil heated in a stockpot. Sauté , but do not let it scorch or turn brown.
|the end of the garlic is almost in sight|
Add tomatoes. Stir in pesto.
|it will boil down to a nice consistency and more homogeneous-looking gravy|
Simmer on low until reduced to viscosity of your liking. Mine had to reduce for 4-5 hours because my tomatoes had a high water content.
|the Italian Heirloom seeds came in the mail the same day--if that's not a sign to make gravy . . .|
Once gravy is reduced and your kitchen is sufficiently blanketed in tomato matter, there are many traditional Italian-American dishes to create with a marinara. For starters, Spaghetti with Marinara. I know this is so simple it almost seems silly to post, but never in my existence have I wanted spaghetti more than during the hours this gravy was cooking. Gravy-making day calls for pasta. My husband had to wait an hour for dinner in the tomato aroma while I went to the gym. When I came home, I realized he could not be trusted alone with the gravy: he was just shy of climbing in the pot and taking a marinara bath. We were both ready for a marinara orgy.
|I know it is humble looking, but it's a tomato party in your mouth. good ingredients=good eating|
The 7 quarts of tomatoes along with the few other ingredients yielded about 1.5 gallons of gravy. That might sound like a lot. I made it on Thursday. It lasted until Monday. Here's why:
Eggplant Parm: crispy eggplant topped with gravy, mozzarella di bufala, parmesan and broiled to perfection
|I'm still amazed that this . . .|
|came from this.|
|but something delicious happens when you do this|
Lasagna: lasagna noodles, gravy, ricotta-egg-parmesan mixture, topped with mozzarella di bufala and parmesan. My formula isn't very hard to identify. It's also not hard to enjoy.
|I haven't made a lasagna all year. Layers of homemade gravy and homemade ricotta is a good final winter meal|
Monday night fast flour tortilla pizzas: This isn't traditional--it's my in-a-pinch meal. Flour tortillas make a great, fast, thin-crust pizza. Make fun if you want, but Jacques said it's ok. I really like tortilla pizzas with roasted brussel sprouts and shaved parmesan. It feels like a splurge, but is very reasonable calorically, which is a hilarious point to make after posting eggplant parm and lasagna.
|a fake margherita, I know|
And indeterminate amounts of marinara were sopped up by multiple baguettes. That's my favorite way to enjoy a good homemade gravy. I needed a bread intervention. My last meal on earth would be my mother's sausage gravy and three loaves of Italian bread.
Vivienne has also taken to gravy-eating. She would have had macaroni with marinara for three meals a day if I let her. She hasn't quite taken to the bread-dipped-in-gravy phenomenon, but I'm confident she'll learn. By the time we work our way through the rest of the canned tomatoes, she'll be a pro. Like her mama.