This recipe is unbelievably easy, and is best with home grown tomatoes (what isn't?). If you use fresh, summer tomatoes, I think you can skip simmering the sauce and just use it fresh and luke warm on pasta for a light summer meal. But if fresh garlic is too punchy for you or you are using canned tomatoes, you may want to simmer it. Either way, this is a great standby for busy family nights...or LAZY family nights.
Easy Tomato Sauce
2 medium tomatoes, cleaned peeled and diced
or 8-10 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 oil packed sun dried tomatoes, drained
2 Tbsp tomato paste
6-8 large basil leaves
4-6 garlic cloves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
Put all tomato, basil, garlic, oregano and seasonings in a food processor or blender, puree until well blended. While machine is on, pour in the oil and puree until smooth for a minute or two. Some people like the sauce like this. If you have fresh tomatoes from the garden, you probably can. But I find that with canned tomatoes, to cook it a little to meld the flavors improves the tomato flavor. If that's the case, pour sauce into a saucepan. Simmer on low for ten minutes, stirring once in a while. Toss with fresh pasta and grated parmesan.
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Snowmageddon '11 came and went, leaving behind 5 foot drifts, countless school closings and stranded cars galore, it also left me with a renewed outlook on friendship and community. Ironically, the week before the blizzard, I was really in a very different place. Amazing that a snow crisis could change that.
My family and I had some really bad interactions with other people that week, some of which were pretty appalling. For instance, in the Target parking lot, a man pulled out from his spot to practically run my daughter and I over. After I grabbed my daughter by the hood of her coat and threw her out of the way as I screamed for him to stop, I told him he almost hit us and he should pay better attention while driving. He did not apologize, in fact snarkily told me he should have hit me instead! The same day, my cousin told me a story of her neighbors who parked in front of their house and refused to move when she asked. Even after she told them her mother, who had gone through 6 hours of chemo, was coming home and would appreciate a spot closer to the house to make it easier for her. How atrocious was that? Add that to the news in general, the shooting tragedy in Arizona and how certain people in the media responded to it, and I really felt this civility in this country was going the way of the dinosaurs!
Enter the blizzard of 2011. 24 inches of snow is nothing new for the city of Chicago. But the amount of snow in such a short time was not seen in this neck of the woods since 1999. And it is crisis like this that really shows the true nature of people. The city does not plow alleys, and for many of us, the city's alleys are the only way to get out of our garages, and get through the city quickly. When we woke up the next morning, the blizzard was waning but our alley was under three to four feet of snow drifts. No one was getting out, especially if we waited for the city to get us out. The neighbors on our end of the alley banded together and with our shovels and snow plows, cleared out half of the alley. My husband invested in a 5 horse power machine and he was making quick work out of the drifts. So much so that he decided to clear out the area around an elderly couple's house and the front walks of our side of the street. We all worked together for 6 hours. Then the neighbors on the other end borrowed the blowers so they could clear out the other side of the alley. This way, we could ALL be mobile once the city cleared out the front street. Later that evening, exhausted and sore, the doorbell rang and one neighbor baked my husband some cookies as a thank you for the snow blowing. The next morning, a neighbor who's carport we cleared without being asked dropped off a thank you note with a bottle of wine (helpful for sore muscles!).
Our block was not alone. All over the city there were stories of neighbors helping neighbors. For instance, Lake Shore Drive looked like a scene from an apocalyptic movie, with cars and buses stranded and buried in snow for miles. There were people stuck in their cars for up to 4 hours. Many people left there cars and just began walking miles home in the blizzard. People who lived around the area went to bring blankets, food and water until emergency vehicles could evacuate the motorists. Buses kept there engines and heat on, letting stranded motorists stay warm and safe inside. Many people, my sister included, helped to push many motorists, stuck in the snow so they could get home.
So it seems, the city of "Big Shoulders" STILL has big shoulders... strong enough for all of us to lean on each other. They might be a little sore from the shoveling, but that spirit is still alive and well in Chi-town.
This is a soup that I whipped up during "Snowmageddon '11". Nothing is more satisfying than a warm, hearty soup after 5 hours of snow blowing and shoveling. This is a great recipe because you can have the slow cooker do all the work. You don't want to be cooking "heavy duty" after working hard battling snow drifts. I also did one more short cut that my Italian mother would cringe at...I used store bought, frozen meatballs. You can absolutely make your own and I have added a recipe in case you are so inclined, but we decided to take that short cut, and I used a pretty tasty brand we like that passes muster. The soup was just as good, either way.
1 1/2 lbs. Frozen Italian meatballs, like Armour (http://armourmeats.com/) or Fontanini (http://www.fontanini.com)
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 carrots, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 1/2 14 oz. cans diced tomato with seasonings
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. Chopped fresh basil
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. Dried oregano
1/8 tsp. Dried thyme
32 oz. Low sodium beef broth
1 cup water
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 lb cooked egg noodles
Bake the meatballs according to package directions. Let drain on paper towels while you prepare the soup.
Put the vegetables, liquids and seasonings in the slow cooker. Cook on low. Add the cooked meatballs. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Drain. Serve soup with a handful of cooked noodles in each bowl. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
1 lb. Ground beef
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Mix all the ingredients together. shape them into 3/4 inch meatballs. Transfer to aluminum lined baking sheet, and bake in a preheated oven to 350 for about 20 minutes. Drain meatballs on paper towels while they cool.