Italian Tomato Gravy
By Donna Valente
Large heavy stock pot
5 quart size freezer containers
5 large cloves of fresh garlic
5 large cans of Italian tomatoes (3 cans whole peeled; 1 can diced; 1 can crushed)
1 large can tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon agave
1 cup each of fresh raw spinach, mushrooms, bell pepper and cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon vegan parmigiana cheese
1-1/2 teaspoons coarse ground sea salt
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano (&or 6 fresh leaves)
1 teaspoon dried basil (&or a bunch of fresh)
On a clean cutting board peel garlic and discard skins. Slice each clove into 1/8th inch slices (about a nickel thick).
Pour olive oil into pot so it thinly covers bottom of pot. Add sliced garlic. Heat on medium and watch very carefully as garlic cooks very quickly. Move garlic around constantly with wooden spoon. As soon as they get golden, remove with slotted spoon, place in small dish and set aside.
Open all cans of tomatoes and pour contents of each into pot. Take care to avoid splashing hot oil. Set each can aside and then fill one with fresh water and use spatula to loosen any tomato still in can and pour water into pot then set can aside. Do this with each can of tomatoes including the paste because it’s an easy way to keep track of how much water you added plus you got all the tomatoes you can AND now the cans are all clean for recycling.
Carefully stir the tomatoes and water until paste is dissolved. Add cooked garlic back to pot. (The reason you remove it is to avoid burning it because burnt garlic can destroy the whole pot of gravy!!)
Add baking soda and agave; both help to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.
Clean and cut up the veggies: slice the mushrooms; coarse chunk the peppers and halve the cherry tomatoes. Spinach need not be cut. Add the veggies to the gravy. Add herbs and spices and stir.
When the gravy begins to bubble a bit, turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for at least 3 hours. The longer it cooks, the more complex the flavor becomes and the thicker the gravy will be.
At regular intervals (at least every 20 minutes) stir gravy with wooden spoon and scrape the gravy on the sides of pot down into the gravy and stir. This is also helps thicken it.
You can squash the whole tomatoes with your wooden spoon if you wish. They do break down eventually in the long cooking process—it is very fun to squish them—be careful not to burn yourself!
Also take care when stirring to be very gentle near the bottom of the pot because you don’t want to scrape anything that may have burned and then mix it in the gravy. Gently stir the contents at the bottom.
After three hours add the vegan Parmesan cheese and stir. Keep cooking and stirring and scraping if you have the time.
This recipe yields about a gallon of sauce! Separate into quart sized containers and freeze until ready to use. I keep a quart in the fridge to cook and serve over pasta, on pizza and as a base for other dishes.