Sunday, July 19, 2015

Simple Tomato Sauce

Adapted from NYTimes Cooking

I find NYTimes Cooking to be a treasure trove of recipes, and I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone willing to listen. The site is user-friendly; it's easy to save and print recipes. Since its inception I have added a number of its recipes to my own repertoire.

When I make tomato sauce for pasta, it's usually very plain with few ingredients, and I always use canned  whole tomatoes imported from Italy. I love Marcella's Sauce with Tomato and Onion. and another Marcella sauce that I think should share the spotlight with it - Sugo Fresco di Pomodoro, her Simple Tomato Sauce, which I make a lot in the summer when I have basil right outside the side door. Ruth Rogers, a founding chef at The River Café in London, called it "the nicest dish there is." 

But when I was perfecting a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan based on Melissa Clark's article Parmigiana Dishes to Warm Weary Souls, I decided to try the tomato sauce she recommends, HER Simple Tomato Sauce. This is now the sauce I use for Eggplant Parmesan and for my family's Manicotti, which are great recipes for dinner parties as you can do all the heavy lifting ahead.

Simple Tomato Sauce
Adapted from NYTimes Cooking

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 28-ounce cans Italian whole tomatoes, preferably from San Marzano Italy 
2 sprigs basil, optional (If you have them, use them, but if you don't, do not substitute dried basil.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl, and crush them using your fingers. Do not do this in a blender or food processor as it will puree rather than crush them. If the tomatoes have been packed with basil leaves, remove and discard them.

Warm the oil in a 4 or 5-quart non-reactive sauté pan, and add the garlic slices. Cook until the slices turn slightly/barely gold; watch carefully, don't let them color too much or burn. If you do, you have to start over. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the contents of the bowl with the hand=crushed tomatoes, add the basil if you are using it and the salt and pepper.

Bring sauce to a simmer, and taste to check the seasoning. Add a little more salt if necessary. Cook at a steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the tomatoes have thickened into a sauce that is not at all watery, but not jammy either. This will take about 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the basil if you used it.

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A 5-quart sauté pan

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