I have a very pleasant memory of my first time eating this delightful dish. I had just learned that I passed all my final college course exams, oral and written comprehensive exams and I did well on my Graduate Record Advanced Chemistry Exam. I was going to graduate from Juniata College with my B.Sc. in Chemistry. And I already had a great job offer with a large chemical company. It was time to celebrate.
My wife Pat and I were on a very tight budget but I figured this was the time to splurge and have a great meal. A trip to the supermarket yielded some nice steaks, some corn and a can of Del Monte® Zucchini in Tomato Sauce. I literally had never seen the zucchini product before, in fact, I had never eaten zucchini in any form in my entire life. The canned zucchini product was expensive compared to other canned vegetables and I guess it was considered a specialty item as it was on a top shelf with other special food items. I decided to try it. One taste and I had found another favorite food. It was sweet and the sauce was not overpowering.
For a number of years I simply bought the occasional can and enjoyed it. It didn’t occur to me to try to make it at home until I grew zucchini squash. My one experiment was not successful as the sauce was far too diluted. I put that idea on the shelf for future consideration. Well, here I am, 47 years after graduating from college, and I finally decided to try again.
This time I was quite successful on my first attempt. I am most pleased. A bit of Internet research and a bit of my own judgment made the day. The difference between my product and the Del Monte® product is simply that I went very light on the seasonings so people could add salt or pepper individually at serving time. Of course, one of my chosen ingredients was Ragu® Traditional Pasta Sauce, so adding other seasonings before trying the dish would have been foolish.
This is a very simple recipe and very easy to make. It is well worth your time, and you will save a lot of money compared to buying the Del Monte® product, which has become rather expensive. I guess there must be a permanent zucchini shortage!
I provide two methods for storing the completed product, canning and vacuum sealing. The process steps are quite different so you will want to read the entire recipe first to make certain you have the necessary equipment and materials. Beyond that, I show the optional use of sodium benzoate in this recipe, which is a commonly used preservative for a wide variety of foods, at concentrations of 1/20th to 1/10th of one percent by total product weight, including any liquid. This recipe comes in at about nine pounds total weight so the amount of Koldkiss® concentrated sodium benzoate solution needed to achieve 1/10th of one percent by weight is 12 grams of the concentrated solution. You will need a very sensitive kitchen scale to measure that amount in grams. I use a reloader scale that I bought from Cabela's®. Note that using sodium benzoate is essentially a guarantee that the product will remain fresh and free of any bacterial growth or fermentation during refrigerator storage of the vacuum sealed product. In short, you can expect shelf life for vacuum sealed bags of the product of at least one year in the refrigerator.
Have fun … the recipe makes eight to nine pints, so you can decide to can it, vacuum seal it or simply serve a large crowd.
4 lbs. of fresh young zucchini, ends cut off and cut into bite size chunks. Do not peel it.
1, quart of Ragu® Traditional Pasta Sauce (or better yet, use marinara sauce)
1, 14 ounce can of tomato sauce
1, very large sweet onion, chopped into ½" by ½" pieces
1, green bell pepper, cleaned and cut into ½" by ½" pieces
8 large leaves of fresh basil
½ cup of sugar
2 cups of water
12 grams of Koldkiss® sodium benzoate solution
Put the pasta sauce, onion pieces and green pepper pieces into a one-gallon stainless steel or non-stick surface pot. Put two cups of water into the empty pasta sauce bottle, put the lid on and shake it, then dispense the water and sauce mixture into the pot. Add the can of tomato sauce to the pot.
Add the sugar to the pot and mix well. Measure out the sodium benzoate solution using an ultrasensitive kitchen or reloader scale and add the solution to the pot and mix.
Heat the mixture to boiling on high heat, stirring every few minutes. Then lower the heat and simmer the mixture for fifteen minutes.
Add the basil and the zucchini, mix well and heat the mixture to a pasteurizing temperature of 180 degrees F. Maintain that temperature for 30 minutes.
If you plan to vacuum seal the product, then remove the pot from the heat, cover it with a lid, let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate it for a minimum of four hours. Vacuum seal the chilled product to 28.5 inches of mercury in 3 cup vacuum sealing bags in the ratio of two cups of zucchini solids and one cup of sauce. Refrigerate the vacuum sealed product.
If you plan to can the product then dispense the hot solid and liquid portions into pint canning jars, seal them, and process them in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove the jars after the boiling cycle, retighten the lids and allow the canned product to cool. The lids will seal during cooling. Any jar that does not seal must have the lid and jar cleaned, retightened, and be brought to a boil momentarily, then cooled to seal the jar.
Serve the zucchini with tomato sauce hot and let each person season it individually. You will get compliments.