Spice Up Your Life


So, frugal shopper that I am, I took advantage of a 50% off sale at the grocery store last week and bought six jars of pasta sauce (yes, I’m Italian and I eat a lot of pasta.  Trust me, six jars is minimal in my house.)  I will generally steer clear of the “fancier” sauces and stick with basic Tomato & Basil sauce (because [a] it’s a great base that I can “doctor” up to make any other kind of tomato sauce and [b] it’s the lowest in calories and fat of jarred sauces. Don’t believe me? Read the labels.  Go on.  I’ll wait.)

In my haste to check out, though, I inadvertently grabbed six jars of SPICY Tomato & Basil sauce instead of the regular kind.

My nemesis

As anyone who has seen me eat spicy food can attest, I don’t handle spice well.  It’s genetic — my mother doesn’t either (although my sister and brother escaped this fate).  Pretty much anything with capsaicin in it (the active ingredient that gives chili peppers their “heat”) will cause me to break into a horrible sweat almost immediately.  The upset stomach will come later, as it would with most anyone who eats spicy food, but in my case my body immediately reacts by trying to cool itself down (hence, the profuse sweating).  I’ve learned to live with this. If I see something on a restaurant menu that indicates “spicy” I’ll usually ask the server if that can be adjusted.  When I hear the usual refrain of “Well, it’s not THAT spicy” I know the dish will cause me night terrors.

I have done my research, though.  I know that capsaicin is a fat soluble molecule, not a water soluble molecule.  What does this mean for your average diner?  It means that if you want to turn down the heat of a peppered dish, add fat, not water (this is why you’ll see many Mexican dishes served with fatty condiments like queso fresco, sour cream or guacamole and Buffalo Hot Wings served with a side of bleu cheese dressing).  Bite into a pepper or other spicy dish?  PRO TIP: Don’t reach for a glass of water, reach for a glass of whole milk (or suck on a pat of butter).  It will dissipate the heat and make digestion a little easier.

So what do I now do with SIX jars of sauce that I could not reasonably eat?  Well, first I had to realize that it helps to read the FRONT of the label and not just the back.  I discovered this when I made some pasta and poured the sauce over it and . . . well, by now you know that it didn’t end well.  Lesson learned.  I realized I was going to have to return the unopened jars to the grocery store (which I did, smiling knowingly as the confused cashier said, “Well, it can’t be THAT spicy”).  Yet I still had that partially opened jar in my fridge.  What to do with that (since wasting food and flushing it down the sink is a completely alien concept to me)?

After doing some quick research on “what else can you do with pasta sauce besides put it on pasta?” I came across a basic recipe for Cream of Tomato Soup (intended for people who don’t have tomato soup in their pantry but evidently DO have pasta sauce). Coincidentally, I also came across many recipes for using canned tomato soup AS pasta sauce, but that seems like the kind of thing only non-Italians or people in the South or Midwest would do. <grimaces>

Never one to take a recipe at face value, I worked up my own concoction (it made for a great lunch with a grilled cheese sandwich) and decided to share MY recipe here, because some of my friends or readers (both of you and I know who you are) might actually LIKE a spicy tomato soup recipe.  So here you go.  Enjoy:

Spicy Cream of Tomato Soup

1 jar of Spicy Tomato & Basil Soup
(I used Classico because they are awesome. Plus, I don’t know if any other brands actually have a “spicy” version of Tomato & Basil sauce)

1 cup of Half & Half

1 tsp. Sugar

Pinch of Thyme

Pinch of Parsley

Pour jar of Spicy Tomato & Basil Soup into a pot.  Add one jar of water.  Slowly simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally.  Gradually pour in half & half until well blended.  Add sugar, thyme and parsley.  Serve hot (again, preferably with an awesome grilled cheese sandwich).

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