My mum’s tomato sauce OR Mamin sug od pomidora

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Today, I’d like to share the recipe for my favourite tomato sauce with you – my mum’s tomato sauce. This sauce is THE tomato sauce for me – I adore it! Over the years I’ve learnt to like and prepare the more minimalist (onion, garlic, tomato, basil) versions, but this is the tomato sauce I grew up with. You will notice that it is very different from Italian versions. The onions are browned (rather than cooked until translucent), together with carrot, and pepper. Garlic is added together with tomatoes (rather than with onions), and parsley and leaf of celery are used instead of basil.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a very important herb in Croatian, especially in Dalmatian cooking. It’s practically ubiquitous! We use it in meat and vegetable sauces, sprinkle it (together with garlic) over grilled fish – everywhere really! I’m submitting this post to Kalyn for the Weekend Herb Blogging event!

I must admit that this post is long overdue. The sauce was made during the summer, as a part of our zimnica, or winter foods, when the tomatoes were at their best. I had some issues with my posting photos plus slow Internet connection so I’m posting it only now. Unfortunately, the tomato season is finished here… If you can find them, plum tomatoes make a really nice thick sauce.

The pot you see below has the capacity of 9 litres! We make 2 or three of those! We always make a huge batch and freeze it for the winter. We use it with pasta, with polenta (it works really well! it’s one of my mum’s favourite dishes), or to make tomato risotto (simply add rice, and cook it in the sauce. I like to top it with yogurt.) Also, this is the sauce we use to make Stuffed Peppers (punjene paprike). Please note that you may need to scale up or down the recipe for the sauce, depending on how many peppers you’re making (details in the stuffed peppers post).

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My mum’s tomato sauce OR Mamin sug od pomidora

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SOURCE: Mum’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 5 – 10 min

COOKING TIME: 30 – 40 min

CUISINE: Croatian

SERVES: 4 – 6

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INGREDIENTS

Vegetable or olive oil

2 – 3 onions, finely chopped

2 large carrots, grated

2 yellow or red peppers, chopped

1 kg tomatoes, chopped

1/2 bulb of garlic

Fresh Parsley, chopped

Fresh leaf of celery, chopped

Salt, pepper

Sugar

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METHOD

1. Fry the onions, grated carrots and peppers until light to medium brown (but not burnt). Please don’t skip this step, it’s very important for the flavour of the dish.

2. Add tomatoes, garlic, leaf of celery and parsley.

3. Season to taste and add a little sugar. (I always add a little sugar when I’m cooking with tomatoes. This offsets the sourness of the tomatoes.)

4. Cook until the vegetables are soft, and colour of the sauce turns from bright red to a orange and red. Reduce the sauce to desired thickness.

5. Process the sauce so it becomes smooth. My mother uses a special kitchen gadget for this, but I’m not sure what the word is in English – perhaps tomato press or something like that. (Asked the hubby – he doesn’t know either) The gadget is used to process tomato sauce specifically. It looks like a type of grinder, you pour in the tomato sauce, turn the handle; out comes the smooth sauce, and in stays the tomato peel. That way there is no need to peel the tomatoes before cooking! Perfect!

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Suggestion:

Serve with pasta, with polenta, or make a risotto by adding some risotto rice to the sauce, and cooking it in the sauce. Don’t forget to stir often! 🙂 I like this risotto with a bit of yogurt on top.

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Stuffed Peppers OR Punjene paprike

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I sorted out my image posting problems, thanks to the kind people who replied to my pleas! Once again, thanks, people! Here is a post, long overdue, that I prepared ages ago, but I’m posting it only now.

Stuffed vegetables are hugely popular in my part of the world: courgette, aubergine, sometimes tomatoes, but above all – peppers (punjene paprike in Croatian). Basically, uncooked peppers are stuffed with a mixture of beef (and sometimes pork) and uncooked rice. The peppers are then placed in a big pan, and covered with very smooth tomato sauce, to simmer until done. Every cook has his or her own variant of the recipe, adding a bit of this, and a bit of that, too add their own personal touch. This is how my mum makes stuffed peppers (punjene paprike).

Stuffed peppers were my favourite dish when I was growing up. I used to break the pepper in half, scoop out the meat, eat it, and leave the pepper ‘skin’ on my plate! Nowadays I know better, and eat the pepper, too! I love the combination of meat, pepper and tomato sauce. I love to dip bread in the sauce, or a piece of potato. This makes me smile already! Gosh, I had this this a few days ago, and I’m craving it already!

This is not a quick dish, but it is well worth the time. The peppers taste great the next day, too, so we often make a larger quantity. We did this this time, too, and had it the next day, too! Yum! Lucky me! We – I mean mainly mum! I was busy taking photos and making notes, during which mum was wonderfully patient! I thought she’d chase me out of the kitchen, me and my clicking, and moving the dishes around! – Thank you, mum! 🙂

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Stuffed Peppers / Punjene paprike

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SOURCE: mum’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 20 – 30 min

COOKING TIME: 2 – 2.5 h

CUISINE: Croatian

SERVES: 14*

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INGREDIENTS

14 large peppers*

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STUFFING

1 kg beef mince

0.5 kg pork mince

1 small bulb of garlic, finely chopped or crushed

2 eggs

1 mug of rice (uncooked)

a small bunch of fresh parsley

some bread crumbs

a little oil

salt, pepper,

vegeta (optional)

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TOMATO SAUCE**

Recipe HERE. Please note that you will need to double or even tripple the quantities for the sauce if you are making the recipe as above, i.e. not scaled down.

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METHOD:

I. Tomato sauce

  • Prepare the tomato sauce first, if you don’t have it already made. 

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II. Prepare the peppers

  • Now prepare the peppers. Wash them, and remove the core and the seeds. See photo below.

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III. Stuffing

  •  Mix the ingredients for the stuffing together in a bowl. Adjust the seasoning.

Stuffing 

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IV. Stuff the peppers

  • Stuff the peppers with the mixture, but do not overfill.

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V. Assembling and cooking

  • Place the peppers in a pan, with the opening pointing upwards (see photo below).

  • Pour the tomato sauce over the peppers. Simmer for 2 – 2.5 hours. Add some flour mixed with water to thicken the sauce to the desired consistency.

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  • Serve with boiled potatoes, or mashed potato.

NOTES

* If you are using large peppers, allow one per person per serving. If you’re using small peppers, allow 2 per person per serving. We got 14 servings out of these peppers.

** We normally make it in advance.

Suggestions

You can use beef mince only. Mum sometimes adds cubes of pancetta to the sauce.

Why not use a mixture of your favourite spices to spice up the mince? I might do that myself, although there is nothing wrong with going simple, and enjoying the tastes of the meat, and the vegetables just the way they are!

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Verdict

As I said, this used to be one of my favourite dishes when I was growing up. I still like it a lot! What more can I say? 🙂 Do try this recipe!

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