Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mushroom and Herb Chunky Tomato Sauce

I had every intention of getting this post published last Thursday night, desperately trying to stay on the schedule I committed to at the beginning of the year.  As you can see, that just didn't happen.  A busy week at work and preparing for a trip to Chicago, while fighting a cold, got in the way. 

Preparation for this trip was a little more involved because we had to get the house ready for my sister who graciously agreed to babysit our three kitty cats while we were away.  This is the first multi-day trip Hubby and I have taken since our newest feline family member, Oliver, joined us last June.  We have been on a couple of local trips, but those don't count since we we took little buddy with us. 
Oliver is technically still a kitten and quite frankly he can't be trusted when left alone for long periods of time.  I've mentioned before he loves to act quite a bit like a dog, eating toilet paper, rooting around in trash cans and even fetching.  His newest trick is pulling the drain stopper out of the bathroom sink and carrying it around in his mouth like a bone or the prey he just conquered.  He carried the thing all the way downstairs to show Hubby and I what he did last week. 

"Look guys! Look what I found!  Isn't it cool?"

He was so proud, I just couldn't be angry with him.  But I must admit, I am completely perplexed at his choice of "prey". Of all the potential things he could have gone after in the house, how did he decide the bathroom sink drain plug was the way to go?   An answer I'm sure I'll never know. 

But isn't he just adorable?  I may be a little biased. 

What I do know for certain is our little guy still needs a watchful eye, so I was thrilled when my sister agreed to supervise the three musketeers.  Thanks Katie (& Luis)!

These three have a rough life huh?

From top to bottom: Kit Kat, Oliver and Chloe
With our kitties well taken care of, we set off for the mid west last Friday morning.  Luckily we landed in Chicago just in time for a snow storm. Guess that's what we get for visiting the windy city in February!  This trip was busy with family activities (Hubby is from Chicago),  catching up with friends (we lived in Chicago for a brief 3 1/2 year stint), lots and lots of eating and trying to squeeze in some time in the city.  Internet connectivity was spotty, so my hope of finishing this post when we arrived was put off a few days.  Despite the chilly weather, we have had a great time.  We spent Monday afternoon at the Art Institute in downtown Chicago and we managed to eat at our our favorite sandwich place, Potbelly's, 3 days in a row!  (I really wish Potbelly's would come to California.)  I do love Chicago.  But I don't miss the weather.  Next time we'll come back in the fall, when the temperature is a little more moderate for this wimpy California girl.

Now that I've brought you up to speed on our kitty cats and our trip, you probably want to hear about the food?  I saw this recipe for mushroom and herb pasta sauce on Sally's blog, A Food Centric Life and it caught my eye for 2 reasons.  One, it looked like a warm, rich, hearty sauce.  Two, I had all the ingredients in house already and it would be a great way to use up a lot of left over parsley (that otherwise would have ended up in the garbage).  I also liked that this chunky sauce was meatless (though I am certain it would taste pretty amazing spooned over homemade meatballs).

The sauce lived up to my expectations of being hearty and flavorful.  Hubby gave it a thumbs up too! And it was easy to make (once you get all the chopping out of the way).  The sauce is very versatile in that you can tweek it to your liking.  If you like more garlic, throw in a couple of extra cloves.  If you like other veggies, such as red peppers, toss those in too.  I did a few tweeks myself, which are noted in the recipe below.  You could easily freeze the sauce in ziploc bag and defrost it in the fridge the evening before you want to get a quick meal together. 

I definitely plan to make this sauce again.  We served it over thin spaghetti topped with a few shavings of fresh Parmesan cheese, alongside a simple green salad.  But it doesn't have to be limited to just pasta or a pure vegetarian approach.  As mentioned above, it would be great with meatballs or for a meatball sandwich.  It would also pair nicely with a panko crusted eggplant or chicken cutlets, Parmesan style.  So many options!


Mushroom and Herb Chunky Tomato Sauce
Adapted from A Food Centric Life

Yields about 1 1/2 - 2 quarts sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped fresh parsley, about 1-2 bunches (it was one for me)
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced (I added to the original recipe because I had some shallot to use up)
3 celery ribs, finely diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 28-ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes
1 28-ounce can of tomato puree
1 teaspoon sugar (I added this to the original recipe because my tomatoes had a very acidic bite)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I omitted)
1/2 cup dry red wine

Heat oil in large saucepan or a dutch oven.  Add parsley, onion, shallot and celery and saute until just tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Add all remaining ingredients (mushrooms through wine) and bring to boil.  Reduce to low and simmer covered for 45 minutes.  Remove cover and continue to simmer uncovered for an additional 20-30 minutes, allowing some of excess liquid boil off.  Serve with pasta, chicken cutlets or meatballs.


  1. Your kitties are SO cute! I really want a cat but Shane is completely opposed. I need to keep working on him :) Sounds like a fun trip to Chicago! I've actually never been, but really want to visit.

    The sauce sounds amazing - I'm a big fan of all things mushroom. Definitely great comfort food served over a big bowl of pasta!

  2. Yes, Oliver is cute:) I have a soft spot for kitties:) But I have to admit that his choice of "prey" is pretty bizarre!
    I have to applaud your courage to brave the February weather in Chicago! I am glad you had fun, but I know that you were happy once you landed in SoCal:)
    I cheat a lot of times with sauces like this one: no one begrudges the lack of animal protein, as it is hearty and satisfying. Like the photo, too!

  3. This sauce looks yummy. I have a pasta sauce I often make but this looks like one I need to make.
    Our daughter lives in The Chicago area, she has 4 cute kids so we visit often. Potbellys is a place we also visit!
    One year we actually took our 6 kids to a Cubs game, The Taste of Chicago and the Fireworks on the Pier on the 4th of July. We really were in the middle of 3 million people. Glad we did it but wouldn't recommend it with children.

    1. Chicago is a fun place to visit. You are brave to take kids to all those events! Especially 4th of July. Hubby and I went down one year and I have never seen so many people in my life.