The meal-balancing issue with tomato sauce itself is the lack or protein to give the sauce that satisfying thickness and "belly-sticking" feeling. Meat, of course, makes a great protein addition to
The stick blender made it a no-brainer. We thought we could use cooked legumes (beans or lentils) to give the soup the protein kick we had been craving without the cost (in money and calories) of using sausage in every sauce recipe. Since then we have made sauce with several different varieties of beans and red lentils, and we have been amazed with the results.
In this recipe, we used adzuki beans- a small red asian bean used in different Japanese and Thai recipes, usually in a pureed paste. The beans have a nice meaty, nutty taste by themselves, and give same to recipes using the puree.
|Adzuki Beans in the Bag|
|Cooked Adzuki Beans|
After cooking, draining, and rinsing the beans, we threw in our aromatics to sautee in our saucepan. This day we used carrots, onion, and garlic. If we'd had celery or another aromatic green on hand we'd have used it, but oh well.
|Aromatics- Ok, no celery.|
|Cooking Down the Aromatics|
After the onion and carrot were softened, we threw in the garlic just until fragrant- then dumped in the can of whole tomatoes. Once the tomatoes were cooking down and condensing, we added the cooked and soft beans back into the mix to thicken with everything else. We stay away from adding salt, seasonings, or herbs until the very last step.
|Tomatoes and Beans with the Aromatics|
Once things are thick enough to stick to the back of the spoon, it's time to pulverize. Into the measuring cup the whole messy mix goes for a good blending. At this stage, watch for thickness and add salt, pepper, and dried herbs to taste while blending. If the mix gets too thick for the blender (this one did) add a little bit of water until the mix is just thick enough to make a nice vortex in the measuring cup (not pictured for safety's sake.)
|Finished blended sauce|
Once the sauce is well-blended and seasoned well, it's ready for nearly any application. It makes a great pasta or pizza sauce for us, but the uses could go well beyond in the hands of a more creative (and less cheapskate) cook.