Much to the chagrin of my Italian family, I was a vegetarian for 30 years. For some reason, during the last 10 years I began including small amounts of fish and chicken into my diet. Not sure why, just wanted to. However, I mostly choose vegetarian. I have been making vegetarian marinara sauce (tomato sauce) for years, without any meat. These days, there is an abundance of delicious meatless recipes that makes being a vegetarian easier than ever.
Since I teach others to do things they love to do every day, I realize that I love to find special foods and recipes and cook. Not all the time, but often enough. In Natalie Goldberg’s book, Long Quiet Highway, she advised the kids in Taos High School, ‘to trust in what they loved, that you don’t know where it will lead you. The important thing is to love something, even if it’s skateboarding or car mechanics or whistling. Let yourself love it completely.’
So in that spirit, in addition to sharing a couple Italian recipes in this post, I want to encourage you to trust in what you love! Do it to increase your la dolce vita, your sweet life.
Some say, it’s not good to divide your attention, but I don’t want to follow rules when I’m doing what I love to do remembering it is my love not theirs. One of my favorite things to do while cooking is to listen to Andrea Bocelli singing Italian opera, watch the Food Network or listen to a show on OWN, Oprah’s channel.
For me, using organic local produce is a priority, even though sadly, Iowa is not known for organic farming. However, our local farmer’s market has improved over the years where several local growers now have hoop houses for the winter months, and thankfully our local grocery store, Everybody’s Whole Foods, supplies us with year-round organic choices.
My recipe for marinara sauce (and everything else) works best when you use the choicest ingredients! Since the eggplants have been abundant at the market with tender skins, I’ve been making a meatless eggplant meatball recipe. I’m including the recipe (printed with permission) from cookbook author, Domenica Marchetti in The Glorious Vegetables of Italy.
Lenora Boyle’s Vegetarian Marinara Spaghetti Sauce (organic):
2 (28) ounce cans of whole peeled plum tomatoes OR better yet, fresh tomatoes. I use canned Organic Muir Glen or San Marzano from Italy
2 carrots (peeled and chopped into very tiny pieces)
2 celery stalks, including leaves (chopped into very tiny pieces)
4 medium sized cloves of garlic, peeled & chopped (or to taste)
1 cup of onions (chopped into very tiny pieces)
½ C of fresh basil leaves (finely chopped) OR (1/4 C dried) OR 4 pesto cubes (that I make and freeze for the winter)
¼ C fresh flat leaf parsley chopped
1 tsp dried oregano, or 1 TBl fresh
extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf (remove before blending or serving)
¼ C sugar (optional to taste), salt, pepper to taste
Pour extra virgin olive oil in a large pot about ¼” deep (you may need to add more). Once hot, add the soffritto: which consists of carrots, celery, onion (all chopped very fine), garlic, parsley, oregano, bay leaf, and half of the basil. Cook and stir for 30-60 minutes (until onions are soft and transparent and veggies are soft) before adding tomatoes.
Add tomatoes peeled, but whole, juice included from the can or fresh tomatoes without skin. Slow simmer for 30 min – 3 hours until reduced to half.
Crush or blend in food processor for smooth sauce, otherwise keep it chunky. Toward the end of cooking, add the remainder of chopped basil. *Remove bay leaf before blending or serving.
Domenica Marchetti’s Meatless Eggplant “Meatballs”:
Meatless Meatballs with Eggplant
Let me know here in “Comments” if you try the recipes and also if you are ‘trusting in what you love.’
You are welcome to reprint, copy, or distribute Lenora Boyle’s article, provided the above author credit is included.