Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Simply Amazing Tomato Sauce

Ever since I have had a functional memory, I remember my father always making tomato sauce: every other Thursday, he would mince carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and add approximately 17 gallons of crushed tomatoes to the pot, letting it simmer all day until we could eat it for dinner the next night and then freeze it for some later time. However, as delicious as it is, sometimes we don’t have 24 hours to make sauce – usually it’s more like 1 hour at most. An Italian boyfriend I had made sauce the following way when friends would randomly show up and he needed to feed them, and, well…he’s Italian - he knew what he was doing.

1 large can (28 ounces) plain crushed tomatoes
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tbs dried basil or 3 tbs fresh basil
1 tbs dried oregano or 3 tbs fresh oregano
2 tbs Olive oil
Sea/Kosher Salt and Freshly ground pepper
Hot red pepper (chili) flakes (optional)
1 package button or cremini mushrooms (optional)
1 red or green bell pepper (optional)

Medium-sized pot; chef's (large, heavy, sharp) knife; cutting board; several small bowls for chopped items; can opener; long wooden spoon to stir sauce; regular spoon to taste

Prep work:
1) Open the can of crushed tomatoes; set aside. 2) Chop your onion and your garlic; set them aside separately. 3) Gather your herbs: if they are fresh, roll them together like a cigar, and cut them into strips(this is called a chiffonade). If they are dry, set them aside in a small bowl. 4) If you choose to add mushrooms, bell peppers, or any other vegetable, slice or chop them to your size preference, and set aside.

Cooking Instructions:
Heat the pot on medium heat for a few minutes before adding the olive oil. Add the olive oil, then add the onions when the oil starts to smoke, or when it shimmers. Season with a dash of salt, stir, cover, and reduce heat to low Рyou want the onions to sweat, not saut̩ (a sweat is basically cooking the onions on a low temperature until transparent, which makes them sweeter Рa saut̩ would brown them instead)

* The sweetness from this sweat will counter the acidity of the tomatoes, which many people often counteract instead by adding sugar. If you add sugar, this is blasphemy, and I will personally come after you and skin you alive *

Add the garlic to the onions, as well as adding your dried herbs and ground pepper (if you are using fresh herbs, do not add them now). Throw in the optional vegetables – cook for about 3 minutes. Dump your can of crushed tomatoes in the pot and stir – allow bubbles to break the surface of the tomato mixture, then cover and cook until thick, about 15-20 minutes; by all means, taste your sauce: it may be slightly acidic from the tomatoes but it should not be overwhelming – it should just taste damn good. If adding fresh herbs, add them now; stir, and take the pot off the heat after 3-5 minutes.

Serve over your favorite pasta, or if you are a really poor college student and have none, then add some hot water and eat it as tomato soup.

Note: This is a good chance to freeze your sauce - grab a couple of plastic containers or glass jars, and spoon sauce in after it has cooled. Take it out of the freezer in the morning for defrosted sauce for the evening

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