Cook Local: The Sauce

A few weeks ago, I was reminiscing about the luscious tomatoes that my neighbor grows along our shared fence. Once the tomato season ends, he uses the harvest to make and put up pasta sauce with his daughters. It’s a bit of an event and a nice way to keep the flavors of summer going into the cool fall months.

I’d been waiting for an announcement of The Sauce’s arrival with some anticipation since mid-October, but… nothing! No news. Nada. Maybe I’d missed out. Was I off the list? Rut-roh. Maybe they’d seen me sneaking picking a couple of romas from not-my-side-of-the-fence back in August. Oh boy.

Bags of tomatoes
The bounty of summer

My concern was for naught. Right before Thanksgiving I noticed a large cooler filled with bags of tomatoes sitting outside my neighbor’s garage. Could it be? Was The Sauce coming soon? Sure enough, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I ran into his daughter, who gave me the lowdown. The Sauce had been made, canned, and was ready to go. She warned me that this year’s version is “spicy,” but if I’m ok with spicy, then they had a jar ready for me. Spicy, you say? Bring it!

Pasta sauce in a jar
Ta-da: The Sauce arrives!

And spicy it is — yowza! More like a salsa than a pasta sauce, this year’s version of The Sauce incorporated red pepper, garlic, onions, and roasted peppers (along with the beefsteak and roma tomatoes). I debated using it as a dipping sauce, but the last of the summer tomatoes deserved more than tortilla chips. What to do, what to do?

The overall flavor and texture of the sauce made me think of huevos rancheros, so that was my inspiration. But before I could start building a dish, I knew I needed to balance the heat in the sauce by adding a bit of agave syrup and salt. Fortunately, these small additions really rounded out the flavor profile.

I wanted to create an easy, but filling and flavorful pasta dish that could support the spicy, flavorful sauce. It was a bit of a market-basket approach (pulling together whatever I could find in the pantry and fridge), but the result was delicious!

Pasta dish
Huevos Rancheros-inspired Pasta with Over-the-Fence Sauce

I started with buckwheat noodles (soba) and thin slices of roasted red pepper, tossed together in a generous amount of olive oil. I then topped the pasta and peppers with The Sauce, a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley, finely grated mild white cheese, and a soft-boiled egg. I was really pleased with the combination of textures and flavors — and the egg added that final touch of umami that made this dish really satisfying. And it just goes to show what you can make with local ingredients, right in your own backyard (…or side yard… or kitchen)!

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