This is hands down one of my favorite dinners. I stole the idea for this dish after my friend, Patty made something similar at a dinner party at her house a few years ago. The recipe is simple, inexpensive, and healthy. It’s also vegetarian, so it’s a good one to make when you’re entertaining no-meat friends. Plus portobello mushrooms are just plain delicious, so it’s hard to go wrong with this one.
This recipe also doubles as a homemade pasta sauce recipe. So to anyone who has been buying store brand spaghetti sauce because they think that making pasta sauce will be difficult, this recipe is for you. I usually make a HUGE pot of the sauce, and whatever I don’t use for the portobellos, I either heat the next day over pasta, or freeze to use at a later date. This sauce freezes very well.
I always eyeball the ingredients, so the quantities listed below are just guidelines really. I usually try to use almost equal portions of squash and bell peppers (a bit more squash than peppers), and proportion the rest of the ingredients around that. The amount below filled my cast iron pot with about 2 inches remaining at the top.
• 1 big red onion
• 10 garlic cloves (use more or less if desired)
• 4 bell peppers (any color you like)
• 4-5 zucchini (or any squash, I used a few different kinds we had)
• 4 portobello mushrooms
• Approx 10 oz shredded light mozzarella (or slice fresh mozzarella for extra yum)
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
• 1 15oz can Italian stewed tomatoes
• 1 6oz can of tomato paste
• 1 bunch fresh basil
• Dried oregano, kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper
Wash zucchini and bell peppers and remove the seeds and membrane from the peppers. Slice the peppers and zucchini into 1 inch chunks.
Dice up onion and garlic.
Wash basil, separate the leaves and discard the stems.
Grate your cheese and put back in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 350* F
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over med-high heat in a large soup pot (or dutch oven like I used.) When the oil is hot and starts to become fragrant, add onions and sauté.
Make sure your oil isn’t cold when you add the onion. When you add vegetables to cold oil and heat them up at the same time, the veggies just soak up the oil and are gross. One way to tell when your oil is hot enough is to add a few drops of water to the pan, if the water sizzles a bit and evaporates, then you know it’s ready.
Add the peppers, and half of the chopped garlic to the pot and sauté with the onion for another minute or two. Add the squash, a bit of salt, and continue to sauté with the other ingredients until the peppers and squash begin to soften up.
Add all of the canned tomatoes and about half of a can of the tomato paste to the pot. Tomato paste is great if you want to add more tomato taste to a sauce, without adding more liquid to it.
Add fresh basil, the remaining garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir the whole mix around and bring to a very slight boil, reduce heat to med-low and simmer, stirring often until the vegetables are soft but not mushy. About….oh, 20 minutes or so.
Taste the sauce. Does it need more salt? …then add some. Is it too tangy? …add a teaspoon of sugar to balance it out. Need more garlic? …okay I always say yes, but you certainly don’t have to. Is it too chunky and not saucy enough? …add some water to the remaining tomato paste and dump this in. Note that all of your vegetables will “sweat” out a lot of their water, so your sauce will have a lot more liquid after it’s been simmering for a while. Fool around with the ingredients until it tastes and “feels” how you like it.
Wash off the portobellos, pat dry, cut off the bottom of the stem, and scrape the gills out with a spoon. The gills are the black layers on the underside of the mushroom. You don’t HAVE to scrape them out (they’re not poisonous or anything), but they make everything turn a grayish-black color, so I always get rid of them.
Line a baking dish with foil. Arrange the mushrooms upside down. Fill each mushroom cap with a generous ladle of sauce. Add extra sauce around & in between the mushrooms, so that the pan looks like a big plate of sauce. Add the shredded mozzarella cheese to the top of each mushroom. I probably go a bit overboard with the cheese, but I love it, and considering that the rest of this dish is almost fat free, I don’t feel guilty adding a little extra.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Garnish with a bit of parmesan if you like, and serve with a nice green salad.
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