Cooking basics: garden pasta sauce

I have been blessed this year with an abundance of fresh, homegrown tomatoes. My brother-and-sister-in-law, Joe and Jill,  have shared from their vast garden, and my next door neighbors, Mildred and Charles Pool, have shared with me, as well (along with squash and cucumbers and eggplant!)  It has been a blessing!

“In this world of uncertainty and woe, one thing remains unchanged: Fresh, canned, pureed, dried, salted, sliced, and served with sugar and cream, or pressed into juice, the tomato is reliable, friendly, and delicious. We would be nothing without it.” ~ Laurie Colwin

You can see in this picture how many tomatoes Jill has had this year. She was in the process of canning them when this picture was taken last month, and they were literally all over every surface of her house.



One of Joe’s heirlooms, ripening on the vine.


Well, in the midst of all this abundance of tomatoes, I’ve been making lots of the usual, delicious summer treats: BLT sandwiches, fried green tomatoes (recipe here), salads, and the like.

However, one night I started a pot of water to boil so that we could have pasta for dinner, which seems to be a weekly occurrence at my house. I love pasta!

When I reached into the cabinet, however, I saw that I had run out of canned tomatoes.  How would I make pasta sauce?

Oh, yes, maybe from the twenty-plus tomatoes I had on the counter.  (tip: never store tomatoes in the refrigerator…it makes them mealy and causes them to lose flavor)

So, I pulled out my food processor, cored about seven big, juicy tomatoes that I had already washed, and dropped the beautiful orbs into the bowl of the processor.  With just a few buzzes around inside the machine, I ended up with a beautiful, pinkish-red sauce.

I added that to some meat I had already browned with onions and garlic. Then I seasoned it, and at the end of the cooking time, it was truly flavorful and we enjoyed eating it ladled over the tender angel hair pasta.

So, before those tomatoes on your windowsill spoil, give this recipe a try. You’ll love it!

Feel free to make this your way, with what you have on hand, and be creative. There’s really no wrong way to do it!


iPhone image as the sauce was cooking


Mama Steph’s  garden pasta sauce

6-7 medium to large tomatoes, washed and cored

1 pound ground beef, turkey, or chicken

1 small onion

1 clove of garlic

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (or about 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)

1 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper, to taste (salt at the end of cooking)

1/3 cup minced fresh celery (or 1/4 tsp celery seed)

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for topping

12 oz box of pasta, cooked and drained


Run the tomatoes through the food processor until the are liquefied enough to be a sauce. Some chunks are wonderful, of course. If you have no food processor, use a blender in smaller batches, or even just chop very finely with a sharp knife, capturing all juices in a bowl.

In a large pan, fry the ground meat in a little olive oil until brown. Since I used angel hair pasta, I made sure to break the meat up into very fine pieces. If using rigatoni or penne, for example, or other sturdy pasta, feel free to leave the chunks larger.

Add the onion and celery, minced, to the meat. Allow to cook for a minute, and then add minced clove of garlic.

If using beef, drain most of the fat, then return meat mixture to pan.

Add basil and oregano to the meat, and stir in, over low-medium heat, until wilted.

Add pureed tomatoes to the pan.

Stir to combine. Add a little salt, but be careful not to add too much at first. As the sauce thickens and condenses, the salt flavor will be more concentrated. Go slowly.

Allow sauce to get bubbly, stirring frequently, for a few minutes, while you cook and drain your pasta. 

After draining pasta, place in pot or serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat all strands. This will add flavor and keep your pasta from sticking together.

When ready to plate the pasta, taste the sauce, adding salt and pepper, to taste.  If the taste at this point is too acidic or sharp to your tongue, try adding a teaspoon of  honey or brown sugar to round it out. Taste until you get it just right for your taste. It’s all about what YOU will enjoy, so interpret it your way.

Serve with a healthy sprinkling of  Parmesan cheese on top, and toasted garlic bread on the side. 


You might also like: Baked tomato pie 

Baked tomato pie







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