Friday, November 30, 2007

Basic Tomato Sauce

Making tomato sauce from scratch is almost as easy as boiling water, and we think it tastes better than anything you can buy in a jar. It's surprisingly economical, too.

Hot cocoa aside (made with Chocolate Malt Ovaltine, which I still love), this tomato sauce was the first thing I cooked entirely on my own from start to finish. I was 7 years old, or thereabouts, when I discovered the recipe in The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan, and my wonderfully patient, indulgent mom ate many, "I want to cook tonight!" pasta-and-sauce suppers once I learned to make it reasonably well.

I must point out here that I absolutely, positively love Marcella Hazan. When I was a child, she made me feel completely at ease in the kitchen; as an adult, I've learned to rely on her for recipes which actually work (if you've had seemingly manageable recipes fail miserably, you'll know how comforting this is) and taste fabulous each and every time.

I still make this sauce, though L has mostly taken over the process, and we've made a few small changes along the way. To make things easier, and because the quality of fresh tomatoes can vary wildly, we take Marcella's advice and rely on San Marzano canned tomatoes, which are reliably consistent in taste and texture.

If you're making the sauce for pasta, toss pasta and sauce in a warm bowl as soon as the pasta is done. If you're making this sauce for pizza, spread a thin layer over the dough and top as you like. Of course, you can also use this in any recipe that calls for tomato sauce. For a change of pace, stir in a few tablespoons of chopped basil leaves for a bright, fresh taste that's fabulous on pizza, or add 1/4 cup heavy cream for a decadent sauce that is especially good over stuffed pasta. Add these additional ingredients as soon as you take the finished sauce off the heat.

Once you've tried it, it will come as no surprise that this has always been one of my very favourite recipes.

Basic Tomato Sauce
Adapted from The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 medium yellow onions, sliced or chopped as you wish*
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste (this will depend on the saltiness of your tomatoes)
Pinch of sugar**

Pour tomatoes, onions, and sugar into a nonreactive pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover the pot and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the onions are soft (usually 40-45 minutes).

Uncover the sauce and stir in the butter or olive oil. Taste and correct for salt, then simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes. Use as you wish.

* If you want to keep the onions in the sauce, finely dice or roughly chop them. If you prefer to discard them (per the original recipe), cut the whole onions into halves, simmer them in the sauce, and remove when the sauce is done.

** Thank you, Lesha!


Lesha said...

as an Italian women, that should be my base diet, on the contrary I don't cook this very often. but when I do it, I prepare it with the maximum accuracy (from slicing onions, to chopping tomatoes) as it was the most complicated recipe in the world. In fact, I assume it as a ritual and the final result is gorgeous in its semplicity.

now, I'm hungry again

la petite gourmande said...

This is definitely a staple of our diets these days... and since L grew up in an Italian family, it's been a staple for him for a very long time! :) How do you make it? Do you add anything different than what we do?

lesha said...

My grandmum taught me to put a half teaspoon of sugar to contrast tomatoes acidity. then I don't usually use butter but just extravirgin olive oil. finally I add some fresh basil and chili pepper

then, of course, you can use tomato sauce as a base and put some vegetables or olives in it.


la petite gourmande said...

You are right- L always adds a pinch of sugar! I'd totally forgotten. You can see that I don't make it often anymore- that's embarrassing! He loves adding chili pepper, too.

lesha said...

I'm flattered...
thank you.


la petite gourmande said...