November 16, 2011

The Two Best Tomato Sauces (or Long Live Summer)

Ry and I love tomatoes almost as much as we do tacos. We love them from seed to sauce, and every heart-breaking or overjoyed moment in between. Even though our tomato plants are long since composted, the trellises safely to rest under the porch for the winter, I am reminded of how much we love them because of a) how much we talk about how much we miss them and b) how much we still rely on them for sustenance. For instance, last night we had a very quick yet healthy meal for a busy busy week that was simply de-frosted hearty tomato sauce tossed with good pasta. Thank goodness I had that Sunday to spare a few months ago to toil over this sauce, or else what on Earth would we have eaten last night, in between spanish class and a kitty dr. appt? (I can tell you - cheese. That's what we would have eaten. Just cheese.)

First, in the tradition of giving thanks, I would like to thank the genius of food-processing, as well the modern conveniences of freezers.

Second, I'd like to share my two favorite tomato sauce recipes. First my own, and the latter from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (think: Julia Child for Italian Cuisine). With either one of these, it is completely acceptable to eat with a spoon, forgoing pasta altogether.

Hearty Tomato Sauce
the kind that takes a while to cook, kind of like a veggie bolognese with bacon

1/2 lb good bacon or pancetta, cubed
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 - 5 cloves garlic, minced
(optional: 2 small green peppers, chopped)
15 - 20 small to medium sized tomatoes, blanched, peeled, de-seeded and roughly chopped (you can substitute 2 quarts whole tomatoes canned...and you can even forgo the peeling/de-seeding part to make it easier if you either want to use a food mill as you put the tomatoes in OR if you don't mind a few seeds in your teeth)
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 tsp oregano
(optional: 1 tsp crushed red pepper)
1 Tbl brown sugar
3 Tbl tomato paste
salt, pepper

In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, render the fat off the bacon in just a little bit of olive oil (approx 7 minutes). Add the onions, carrots, celery, green pepper and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until just tender. Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper (if using...and why wouldn't you?). Bring to just barely a boil, cover part way, turn the heat down to low and simmer slowly for an hour. Check the flavor, and add more salt, pepper (and other spices you're in to) if needed. Add the brown sugar and tomato paste, and let simmer for another 1/2 hour or so. Eat right away, or let cool and freeze for future use.


...and now for a simple, delicious sauce that is easy to make...

Tomato Sauce with Onion & Butter
"This is the simplest of all sauces to make, and none has a purer, more irresistibly sweet tomato taste."

2 lbs fresh, ripe tomatoes, blanched and de-skinned (or pureed in a food mill to get rid of seeds, etc, but no need to fuss) OR 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice (I just use a quart of our canned whole tomatoes)
5 tbls butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
1 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table

Put the tomatoes in a saucepan, add the butter, onion and salt and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for 45 minutes, or until the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir from time to time, mashing any large piece of tomato in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta.

May be frozen with done; discard the onion when freezing.

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