Edible gifts are always my favourite things to give at Xmas time, but over the last couple of year I've realised just how unhealthy all the traditional ones are! Mostly its chocolates, lollies, biscuits, jams and desserts in jars. So much sugar! I know a lot of people in my family and friends are trying to have less sugar in their lives which is a wonderful thing and the last thing I want to do is discourage them by piling them with sugary treats at Xmas. No matter how well intentioned, I know I'm not really doing them a favour.
Last year I shared with you gorgeous jars of bean soup mix, which has turned into one of my favourite healthy (and so easy!) gifts. I also shared 2 types of Cornbread in a Jar - Chilli Cornbread and Za'atar Cornbread. I've started to realise since then just how many wonderful home made edible gift ideas there are which aren't piles of sugar.
This one is my new favourite, mostly because I'm a pasta fanatic. It's very adaptable - you can use any pasta sauce you like. If you've got a fabulous signature sauce use that, if not give this recipe a go. Then, go and buy the fanciest pasta you can find in the most fun and exotic shape you can. Sure, it'll cost you $6 instead of 99 cents, but that still works out as a pretty cheap present! It really won't be the same if you use cheap penne, as the exotic pasta in spectacular shapes will be a real treat.
Tomato Vodka Pasta Sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 kg ripe tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stick, chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup loose basil leaves, torn up
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup blanched almonds
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onions until soft. Add the garlic, tomatoes, carrot, celery, vegetable stock and bay leaf and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are completely cooked through.
2. Remove from the heat and take out the bay leaf. Stir through the basil leaves, vodka and blanched almonds. Season with salt and pepper, if you like. Allow the sauce to cool a bit and then put in a blender and purée until completely smooth.
3. Transfer to washed large jars and put the lids on tightly.
Now - if you're giving these away straight away, you can give them just like this & tell your recipient to store in the fridge and use within a few days. If you're not sure when they'll use it, or if you'd like to make them up in advance, then just quickly sterilise and seal the jars after you make them. Then they'll keep in the cupboard for months. To do this, line the bottom of a really big saucepan with a tea towel (so that the bottoms of the glass jars aren't touching the bottom of the hot pan) and place your jars in (make sure lids are on as tight as you can). Fill with enough cold water to completely cover the jars and turn on the heat. Bring to a boil and boil for about 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and allow to cool.
Makes approximately 2 large jars.
To make up your gift packs, simply cut a piece of hessian or something suitably rustic and pie it on the top of your jar using black or brown twine. Label your jars and use twine to tie the jar to a packet of gourmet special pasta. You may also like to include a used by date on your label.