I was 13 years old when I found out lasagna didn’t have to be burnt and crispy. It was an amazing experience.
Growing up, my mom hated cheese, all cheese, so cheesy pasta was out of the question. If my mom wanted a quick meal for my sister and I, she would microwave an individual portion of frozen lasagna for us. And she would overcook it. Badly.
Maybe she just burned mine, I don’t recall my sister trying that blackened lasagna flavor.
One day, my aunt Kathie was in town, and she made us lasagna from scratch. I was in heaven. It’s soft! Cheesy! No black bits! I knew I couldn’t go back to the old way of eating lasagna. When I left home, I took my aunt’s lasagna recipe and modified it a bit, using tomato sauce, tomato paste, lots of herbs and spices, and copious amounts of garlic.
I loved lasagna so much, I even made 40 pounds of it in one day to give to my friends and family. After that, I gave up lasagna for a few months.
A few days ago, I had the brilliant idea of making my own tomato sauce, since so much of the store-bought stuff was full of sodium, or, if it was low sodium, it was ridiculously expensive.
So off to the farmers market I went! A 25 lb. box of tomatoes later, I was at home, hands deep in blanching and coring tomatoes. Let me tell you, it took FOREVER, and my kitchen looked like the home of a serial killer.
Just a tip: Make sure you have a LOT of strainers and minions with opposable thumbs (children, spouses, pet gorillas). It will speed things up considerably, and share the mess!
Have you ever tried to core and seed 25 pounds of tomatoes by yourself? It’s not fun, I tell you. Trying to get all the seeds out with a spoon was a pain in the butt, until I found a little tip online – core, cut into quarters and *squeeze* the seeds out of the tomatoes. It’s a bit messy (okay, maybe very messy), but it saved a LOT of time.
After I cored and seeded the tomatoes, I left them in strainers for about 30 minutes then chopped and diced two large onions.
Since Colby has taken up woodworking, I stole his respirator and some of his disposable gloves. Worked quite well! I still teared up a bit, but I couldn’t smell the onions!
After the onions had softened, I tossed them in the blender to squishify them (chopped onions are icky). Then I pureed the tomatoes (leaving them a bit chunky), tossed them in a couple of stock pots and added my spices (salt, pepper, red pepper, oregano, basil, parsley and a touch of rosemary).
Four hours of simmering later, eight pints and one half pint sit on my counter, tempting me with all sorts of goodies; baked pasta, pizza, sketti, lasagna…