My post from three days ago largely centered around the tomato sauce I made in Tuscany this past summer. I promised to post the recipe at a later date, so here it is.
For me, there are two ways to make basic tomato sauce: With fresh tomatoes and with canned tomatoes. While I generally hate canned food, I make exceptions for one or two things. My one major exception is tomato products. Let’s face it, opening a can of crushed tomatoes is a quick and easy alternative than peeling and cooking fresh tomatoes. And while hanging around a real Tuscan kitchen this past summer, I saw that the Italians don’t consider themselves above using the prepared stuff either. There, they opt for the bottled tomato sauce which is runnier than our crushed tomatoes.
What’s more, I find that the taste of canned crushed tomatoes is often better than fresh tomatoes, especially when compared to off-season tomatoes that have very little taste. Another benefit is that canned may even be healthier than fresh tomatoes. According to Martha Stewart: “Canned tomatoes have even more health benefits than fresh tomatoes. Lycopene, a pigment that is responsible for the tomatoes’ red color, is one of several carotenoids (a group of antioxidants) that may help to decrease the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. The processing method used in canning tomatoes causes the release of a greater amount of lycopene than what is usually found in raw tomatoes.” (And if you’re concerned about the whole BPA thing, read this post from the Summer Tomato to put your mind at ease.)
Having said that, when the tomatoes are in season, taste nice and sweet, and I’ve bought too many and don’t want to throw out rotten tomatoes, I use them for making sauce. (Tip: often, the skin gets discolored when they’re starting to get old but when you peel them, you may find that under the skin the tomatoes are perfect. ) And when they’re good, they do make wonderful sauce that tastes great with pasta and they have a fresh taste to them that gives your sauce a lift.
So is my version of the basic tomato sauce. Note that the seasoning and flavors can be adjusted according to your personal taste…more or less garlic, herbs, wine, etc. You can also add any vegetables you’d like, such as carrots or zucchini. Just make sure they’re soft before you make the sauce so they blend in nicely. Have fun!!
THE VERY BASIC TOMATO SAUCE
About 6-7 large very ripe very red tomatoes (if you have more, just use them, and increase the rest of the ingredient quantities) peeled* and chopped OR 1 800g can of crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic crushed
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil or 5-6 chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 10 chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon of sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 1/3 cup of dry red wine (optional but highly recommended)
How to do it
1. In a medium-sized pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions until they are soft (they will just start to color, don’t brown them)
2. Add the crushed garlic and stir around in the pot for a few seconds until they just start to get some color (do not let them brown otherwise they will burn)
3. Add the tomatoes, herbs, seasoning, sugar and wine.
4. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer uncovered for at least 5 minutes, and longer if possible, until the sauce had reduced (you will see the line on the side of your pot showing the original level of the sauce; I usually stop cooking when the sauce has dropped by about 1-2 cm).
Serve over pasta, use in lasagna, add ground beef and turn it into Bolognese sauce, make meatballs and cook them in this sauce…the possibilities are endless.
*To peel tomatoes, place them in boiling water for at least 5 minutes and the peels will slip off easily afterwards. If they peels don’t split by themselves, take a sharp knife and pierce the skin and they will peel back quickly. If they don’t then you haven’t soaked them for long enough, or you water wasn’t boiling.