Recipe: Red Pasta Sauce Base With Variations

 Red pasta sauce.

Flickr Photo Credit: Ninja Poodles

This one starts off very similarly to my multipurpose marinara sauce recipe posted previously. Start with tomato puree and Italian seasoning. The ratio is basically eyeballed and to taste.  Saute a chopped onion or two (the amount depends on your preference) in olive oil and the desired amount of garlic . Add to to the puree mixture. Depending on how thick you like your sauce, you may or may not want to add a little tomato paste as well.  Up to a handful of brown sugar is also great to add richness to the flavor. (This is also a great tip if you don’t have hours and hours to simmer your sauce and need to throw it together at the last minute. It helps cut the acid. ) From here, you can try a few different variations:

  • Red Clam Sauce - I use a large can of clams (the kind that come in the giant two-pack from the warehouse store) and a bit of the juice to accent the seafood flavor a bit more. While I prefer my regular meat sauce to be a bit spicier, I tend to go a little more subtle with this one. A bit more brown sugar or Splenda, and some fresh basil if I have it. Certainly, you can use fresh clams if you want. I use the giant cans because it’s more affordable for us, and because it’s a higher end protein source I don’t have to find freezer or fridge room for. Also, if you don’t have a larger batch to make, you can use half the amount of clams and have enough to go with the juice to make a clam chowder the next day, or a batch of clam dip for an after work get together with friends.
  • Meatless Mushroom – The only extra thing I do here is to go nuts with the mushrooms. The large number ten cans at the warehouse store are a good place to frugal on this. If you feel like splurging though, fresh mushrooms really make this stuff rock. Play around with adding fresh herbs if you have some, but otherwise the Italian seasoning, olive oil and garlic will be enough to round this out. This one is nice if you are a vegetarian or have a friend coming for dinner who is.
  • Meat Lovers - Use all of the base ingredients and go nuts with all the great sauce meats, pork sausage, ground beef, pepperoni . . .
  • On the Light Side - Basically, this is the same as the meat lovers, only I use turkey pepperoni (love this stuff!) and turkey sausage as well as ground turkey or chicken. With all of the seasonings and some onions and mushrooms thrown in, this stuff has plenty of flavor. If you’ve never had turkey pepperoni, it’s extremely zingy. In fact, I prefer it to regular pepperoni because it has more flavor.

So there you have it. One sauce base with several dinner options attached. Try it with spaghetti, rigatoni, penne or even spaghetti squash. If the large cans of puree from the warehouse store are too large for you (studio apartment, dorm room, etc.), go ahead and just buy the large cans of puree from the regular grocery store. They are smaller, but large enough to only need 2-4 of them for a small to medium sized batch. Enjoy!

This recipe was contributed to the September 30, 2009 edition of Beth Whitman’s Wanderfood Wednesday.

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