• Story of the Versatile Summer Sauce…and Eventually the Recipe

    August 31, 2017 | Family Food Recipe
  • In (what seems like 100 years ago) the spring of 1980, I found myself home with my parents and unemployed. The advertising firm where I had taken refuge after too much college fun had closed after getting stuck for about $100K in media buys thanks to a flim-flamming client. I was in a homebound purgatory until I would resume classes in June at Butler … on my own dime until I could prove myself. 

    This timing coincided with tax season … for my entrepreneurial parents, this was code for “open a can of kidney beans and fix a hamburger patty for dinner.” Before Quickbooks, before computers, tax preparation was an “all hands on deck” exercise that included alphabetizing repair orders on the living room floor and sorting credit card receipts. 

    And thus pre-occupied, my mother allowed me into her kitchen. Most people think because my mom was a fantabulous cook, she taught me to follow suit. Not so much. And honestly, my daughters and I have a joke about “Pulling a Jeano” – which means that you’ll leave out an ingredient or list the wrong measurement so it’s NOT QUITE as good as hers’. Truth.  

    But that spring, inundated with taxes, she barked directions for a few simple recipes from her desk mounded with papers and adding machine tape growing toward the ceiling. And this “lite pasta sauce” was one of them. Easy-peasey, delicious and you can use whatever you have on hand protein wise if you so desire. Knock yo’ self out … and know I’m not pulling a Jeano and steering you wrong. Bon appetite! 



    green peppers 




    cherry tomatoes  

    Oregano, basil, thyme (fresh or jarred) 

    OR Italian Seasoning 

    Salt and Pepper 

    DRY White wine or Rose 

    Fresh (tagliatelle) or Boxed (linguine) Pasta 

    Pasta water 


    Lemon zest *  

    Crusty Bread 

    Nice Rose from Luberon Region 

  • FIRST 

    Go ahead and cut up all your veggies at once and use my beloved paper plates for sorting. For my standard sauce I prefer: Onions, green peppers, celery, zucchini, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes sliced in half. And always add your garlic at the end. Please. If you don’t like something (she said, knowing her son-in-law just rolled his eyes and said, “damned mushrooms”) leave out what you don’t like. How much? Eyeball it, but for the two of us (and we always have left overs): 1 onion, half bunch of celery (use those leaves, they’re delish), 1 green pepper; 2 zucchini (one green, one yellow); half container portabello babies, sliced; and half a container cherry tomatoes (I love those heirloom babies the very best). Go ahead and chop up your parsley and zest your lemon for the very end.  If you don’t have a zester, you can use a vegetable peeler to take off the upper part of the lemon peel, but do not touch that white part. That is the pith. You make the joke. Cut it into super thin ribbons if you’ve done the peeler. Mix it with the parsley. 


    I always do my version of the “trinity” first … onions, celery and green peppers, sautéing in a little olive oil. If you like a little carmelization on your onions, throw them in first. Some people may say, “OOH they’re burnt.” Nope. Just building that delicious flavah.  Add in the other sliced veggies EXCEPT FOR THE TOMATOES AND GARLIC and let them sauté lightly AND THEN the garlic. (What’s up with this garlic thing? Garlic burns and becomes bitter and yuck. Then your sauce is yuck.) Season it up with Salt, Pepper and a healthy palm full (1 – 2 tablespoons) Oregano or Italian Seasoning. Deglaze the pan with about 1/3 cup wine (or other alternatives). I then throw in the tomatoes because I love them just barely cooked. They add brightness to the sauce, which is the whole point of this exercise. If I wanted them cooked down, I’d just buy a jar of pre-made WHICH IS PERFECTLY FINE.   


    For our delicious Cucuron Market Sauce, we used fresh shrimp & langostinos … If you buy fresh, clean them thoroughly … that means remove the shell, head and their poop shoots. Sorry, that’s what it is. There are two in a shrimp – it’s that little grey “string,” get both. Because no one wants shrimp poop in their pasta.  


    Here’s the tricky part with seafood pasta (aside from the aforementioned cleaning). 

    Bring your water to boil for your pasta. Salt it. Then salt it again. Like 1/4 cup.  

    I have grown to love a pasta pot – so, that’s the colander down in the water. You’ll see why in a minute. 

    If you are cooking fresh pasta, put your pasta in boiling water about the same time you drop your seafood right in the sauce and give it a stir. As soon as it is all pink – about 3 minutes, take that off the heat! And your fresh pasta should be done as well. (pull a piece out, take a bite to test al dente).  

    When it is done, take the entire pot to the sink and pull out the colander with the pasta.  

    Take a ladle or two or three of that delicious salty water and put over your sauce, stirring after each gently. (Thanks Tony Hanslits for this tip!)

    FIFTH: Plating 

    People don’t pay enough attention to this part. Sometimes the meal is made or broken right here. 

    Plate the pasta using your pasta fork utensil or tongs – you can either put the colander back down in the pot to loosen up the pasta or dip it up and give it a dunk-ity-dunk in the water and then put it on your plate (I’d recommend a shallow bowl). Repeat ‘til you get enough. Then ladle up your sauce. To finish, top with the chopped parsley and lemon rind to taste. 

     Of course you can add parmesan (though I don’t when I’m doing fish) and more pepper as you see fit. 


    Other things to do with this sauce: 

    You can buy delicious sausages, brown them in the skillet and when they are done sauté your veggies in that loveliness … then slice and use instead of the seafood. 

    If you have left over, you can drain the liquid and throw it in a skillet on a Saturday, warming it up, beat up about 3 eggs and make a delightful frittata. 

    In the spring, you can use baby spinach, asparagus or peas. In the later summer, you can use eggplant. In the fall, you can even bust out some butternut squash (that goes very well with the sausages). Admittedly in the cold months, I’m down with pork bolognese and tagliatelle and will use a jarred sauce to help me along. 

    AND, if you just want to take all those delicious veggies after they’re all cooked and deglazed and add chicken stock, voila, that is a pretty good soup (you can substitute Herbs de Provence for the Italian seasoning if you want). Add in sausages and or rotisserie chicken … or even some cannelloni beans! … tres magnifique.