Saturday, July 14, 2007

Hearty Italian Dipping Sauce

Take a crusty piece of bread and dig in!

Pedro and I improvised this dish last night. We wanted something like a marinara sauce, but a bit heartier. And rather than serving it over pasta, we wanted to use it as a dip for bread. We think this would be a great appetizer or party dish, served with a platter of various breads, slices of toast or maybe bread sticks. But it's also hearty enough to be a meal if served with a nice salad. Since we weren't following any recipe and were making it up as we went along, I don't have exact measures to share, but here's the main idea:

Hearty Italian Dipping Sauce

generous amount of extra virgin olive oil
half a medium Head of garlic, minced (or about 6 cloves)
1 (28 ounce) can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 roasted red bell pepper (we roasted it on our stove top the same way we roast for Mexican salsas)
chopped fresh basil and oregano
1/2 pound of organic cottage cheese
shredded blend of cheeses of choice (we used a mix of Mozzarella and Monterrey Jack, as that's what we had, but Parmesan or Fontina or Asiago or other Italian would have been even better)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
optional idea: add some steamed or blanched or otherwise cooked spinach

1. Start Roasting the bell pepper. In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until the flavors have been well released into the oil, but before browning. At this point you can optionally add a dash of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. When the bell pepper is done being roasted, chop it up in 1/2 inch cubes and add it to the sauce. Continue simmering the sauce while preheating your oven to 450 degrees.

2. Stir the cottage cheese and freshly chopped herbs into the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into bowl(s) and place on rimmed cookie sheet. Sprinkle each bowl with shredded cheese. Place in oven and bake until bubbly and the cheese is melted and crusty.

3. Serve as a dip for crusty bread, toast... Or of course, instead of using it as a dipping sauce, you could also mix it with pasta...

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