California Pasta Sauce (Jessica’s Mid-Week Destressing Project)

Because the G20’s in Pittsburgh, 2 of tomorrow’s 3 classes are canceled, so I have a little longer than usual to get my work done. I tamp down mid-week stress, I decided to cook my meals for the next few days. I decided to experiment with the lovely dried lavender my mom sent me from home. I’ve never really learned to follow instructions for recipes, and usually follow the whatever-is-in-the-fridge-and-looks-like-it-would-taste-nice method of pasta sauce creation.

But this time I decided to be a little more organized, which I how I have come up with a recipe to describe my creation. To give the sauce more dimension, I added half a jar of mild salsa (a great way to add veggis and heat to pasta sauce without chopping veggis). As all of the chicken-breast in the house is frozen, and I have a veggi housemate, I used canned kidney beans to add protein. Here is the recipe, more or less:

  • 5 twigs of dried lavender, just the buds.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, for simmering
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped roughly (each piece is around 1/2 x 1/2, though different sizes helps give the pasta body, so don’t worry about it too much)
  • 1/2 a jar of salsa (around a 1/2 a cup)
  • 1 large tomato, roughly chopped (mine was between the sizes of a baseball and a softball)
  • 2.5 cups of kidney beans
  • 20 ounces of a 26 ounce generic pasta sauce (we had some fancy kind, I usually just use Prego as a base)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preparation instructions:

  1. Washing the lavender twigs, and strip the buds.
  2. Drizzle the olive oil in a medium pot (pots reduce splatter), start heating it at about medium heat, add the lavender buds. (I love the way the house smells when I am cooking, and simmering the buds alone made sure I was cooking within a pleasant fog of lavender smell. Also, when my housemates come home and say “oh, my god. That smells incredible. oh my god,” it is good for my ego.)
  3. Dice the garlic, throw it in, stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the pan. Reduce or increase heat as necessary.
  4. Chop the pepper, throw it in, stir.
  5. With the pot hot, dump the salsa in. Most store-bought salsa is massively watery, so let a lot of that boil off while your chopping the tomato.
  6. Let this simmer for a while, reducing and getting thick. Smell (carefully! splatter hurts.) and make sure the lavender and the garlic are playing nicely.
  7. This is a great time to wash up the cutting board, unload the dishwasher, whatever.
  8. Add kidney beans (drain as much of the fluid off as possible–it will add texture and flavor, but boiling off excess liquid takes annoying time)
  9. Add pasta sauce. Let simmer, about 1/2 an hour (more if you like your sauces thick, less if you are rushed).

I used this time to finish the big batch of rigatoni I had boiling, and package it all away in tupperware. I finished up the dishes, unpacked our box from, and check my rehearsal time tonight.

I usually believe that pasta sauce should serve as a meal by itself, and so get it as thick and stew-y as possible, but it smelled like this batch was going to be a little lavender-heavy and I didn’t want to concentrate that too much, so I boxed it up while it was still soup-y.

I just had it on top of some rigatoni, and mmmm, I really like what lavender does in pasta sauce. It’s like eating hearty perfume. Yumm.

Inspirational Quote:

“Non-cooks think it’s silly to invest two hours’ work in two minutes’ enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet.”–Julia Child

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