hand blender, how did i live without you?!

for christmas, i asked for an immersion blender. i asked, doug bought. and he didn't just get the crappy one i added to my christmas list, he got me a great cuisinart one. after using it only once, i started to wonder why did i not have one of these years ago?

even though almost nothing is easier than cooking up a warm, one-pot meal like soup, there was one step i'd complain about every time; pouring the boiling hot vegetables and stock out of the pot and into the blender. i had burned myself enough times and hated it so much, that i had even tried skipping that step, which meant watery soups (ewww). this awesome tool takes care of all that in record time, and without any of the mess.

this week, a friend asked me to make vegetarian lasagna for a youth retreat. since i had little time to throw it together, i was hoping to use what i had instead of running to the grocery store. ricotta cheese, check. eggs, check. lasagna noodles, check. spices, check. pasta sauce, hmmm... i got really excited when i found one lone jar of Prego, and even considered forgetting to mention the fact that it was "Made With Real Meat!" but once i started stacking up the amazing amount of canned, diced tomatoes i had, i saw that making my own sauce was the way to go. plus, i was going to get another chance to use my hand blender! making sauce from scratch just got so much cooler.

red sauce is pretty basic, so i figured i just wouldn't even waste time looking for a recipe and instead throw a bunch of stuff into a pot until it was right. i was happy with the outcome, and thought i'd share!

big ol' pot of pasta sauce
(serves: a whole bunch of people)

olive oil
diced mushrooms
dried or fresh basil
dried oregano
tomato paste
red wine
canned tomatoes, (whatever style you have
if you're lucky enough to own an immersion blender;)


1. heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and a little butter over medium heat in a large stock pot. when oil is warm, saute onions with a little salt. i like to actually caramelize the onions a bit for flavor, but cooking the onions until they are just translucent is fine too.
2. add mushrooms (i used one of those small containers) and cook until they also turn a bit brown. once they do, add basil and oregano (however much you prefer, but i don't hold back) and cook just until you start to really smell those herbs opening up - i'd say about a minute or so. if you have it on hand, add some tomato paste which i think helps thicken the sauce.
3. now add the wine - i used up the cup we had left of a good bottle of pinot, but any red that is good enough for drinking works. simmer until all the alcohol has cooked off and when there is very little liquid left.
4. now add your tomatoes with the juice. i had five 14.5 oz cans on hand, so i used them all. once everything is in the pot, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduced the heat to a simmer. cover the pot and simmer the crap out of it! i'm talking working out, showering, hanging out, blogging, picking kids up from school kind of simmering. however, i'm not responsible for your house burning down. just saying. and less time on the stove top is fine too, you're just missing out on being able to say that you simmered the crap out of it and conquered the world all at the same time.
5. the great thing about the diced tomatoes is that you can cook them a lot easier on the stove as opposed to a thick sauce that will "burp" (gross, but seriously). i don't blend the sauce until i'm ready to serve everything up so that i don't get tomato sauce all over the kitchen.
6. when you're just about ready to get things on the table, go ahead and blend the tomatoes and see how it tastes. i usually add a bit of salt throughout the cooking process, but it's fine to wait until you're ready to taste the sauce and adjust how much salt you're going to need. for a big pot of pasta sauce like this, i end up using a good amount of salt, figuring it's still probably less sodium than the jarred stuff. whatever makes you sleep at night, right? also, this may sound kind of shocking, but to tone down the "tomatoey" taste, i'll add a tiny bit of a sweetener. honey is a great, natural sweetener that you're not going to need much of, but shhh, i've even used white sugar. just add little bits until it tastes right.
7. enjoy!

as you can imagine, this recipe is easily altered. go ahead and add anchovies, ground beef, sausage, meatballs, spicy red pepper flakes, ricotta cheese, or whatever you think is appropriate. let me know if you come up with an irresistible twist!


Kate said...

How was I not aware that these existed? With a tiny tiny kitchen, I've avoided getting a blender, but every time I make soup & I get to that dreaded part I hadn't considered/read beforehand that says "place in food processor...", I cry. You have saved me.

ellybeth said...

seriously kate, i'm puzzled why one of these didn't go on our wedding registry back in the day. i'm making up for lost time though, we're on a major soup kick.

i'm so excited about these in fact, that i'm considering only giving them as christmas presents next year. doug will be all, "great. do we really need two?"

This Girl said...

I got a giftcard to Kohl's, so I picked up the Food Network one and good heavens is it AWESOME. It came with a little measuring cup and lid and a little whisk attachment so I can make small batches of whipped cream!

Seriously love this thing so much.

emilia said...

I kid you not I was talking to my boyfriend about these hand mixers about an hour before reading your post. My friend has one and she was telling me that she uses her one all the time. I cannot wait to make so many soups!

H.M. said...

I, also, received a hand blender for Christmas, and have been whipping up smoothies like nobody's business! Nevermind all of the soup options I now have in my arsenal.

stephanie renee said...

so glad you stopped by my blog so I could find yours! I just made the connection that you are the adorable ellybeth I have read about on jenny's blog! I totally want a hand blender now and didn't even know they existed. I love making soup and totally agree that the part I hate most is the transferring to the food processor and back. Wish I could have gotten this on a holiday wish list, but I haven't done my returns yet!

m.bardeaux said...

i asked for one for christmas too! i love it.

M @ Zip Zest Zing said...

I love mine! I have had a Braun one for years which also comes with a whisk and an attachment for chopping.

Eric and Jill said...

how the heck does it not splatter everywhere when you use it? every time i use my immersion blender, ingredients fly all over my kitchen.

melissanearandfar said...

My hand blender is the most used tool (next to my knives) in the kitchen. It was a Christmas gift from my mum, from many years ago, and every so often I thank her again because it's just so useful and great.