Saturday, October 16, 2010

Basic Italian Red Sauce> The Universal Italian Condiment

If you appreciate a nice plate of pasta then a rich, flavorful, zesty, thick sauce is what really makes the pasta stand out. I cringe when ever I go down that isle at the market with all those jars. So many choices some heavy with salt some are sweet and none are fantastic. Read the labels some time and you will probably lose your desire for that plate of pasta.  A great sauce should be big on flavor and have only a hand full of ingredients. After all the tomato is the real star and you should use the best ones you can  afford.
Imported San Marzano plum tomatoes are king and in my little part of the world also go for a kings ransom just under $5.00 for a 28 oz can. That is completely out of my budget so I went in search of and econimical replacement. The closest I could find in flavor and acidity are petite diced and are advertised by a chef who crashes your kitchen to cook with them.
Making a good sauce is not difficult, If you can turn on the cook top and use a can opener your half way home. Enjoy!

  Prep time: 5 min.         Cook time: 1 hr         Yield: about 2 quarts


2 28 oz cans of tomatoes ( chopped or whole)
2 6 oz cans tomato paste
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/3 cup (aprox.) good Italian olive oil
1 med onion (grated extra fine)
3-4 about 1 tbl spoon cloves of garlic (grated fine)
*1/2 tsp dried basil
*1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 cup red wine
salt to taste.
2 packets sweet and low sweetener
*Sub 1 tsp Italian seasoning

Tools: Heavy bottom stock pot, wooden spoon, box grater, blender


Start by placing the stock pot on the lowest heat add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot + a little extra; You are going to infuse the oil with flavor that will carry through the sauce.
Add the chili flakes and the herbs to the warm oil allow to heat for 10 release their flavors and infuse the oil.
Add the tomato paste repeating the same process until the oil changes  from a green -gold to a red tint
the longer you cook the tomato paste the more tomato flavor will be concentrated into the oil. The tomato paste will begin to caramelize intensifying the natural sweetness, so let your "inner chef " tell you when it has been long enough.
Push the tomato paste to one side of the pan the grated onion and garlic into the oil to sweat their goodness into the infusion until they become translucent this should take about 5- 10 min depending on how hot tour oil is. once the y are translucent mix them with the tomato paste.
A quick note on seasoning, I season as I go after each addition with a final adjustment at the end. You are in control so add what tastes good to you I always try to imagine the food in the pot as it where my plate and season accordingly as if I where adding it at the table.
.Open your tomatoes and add one can to the blender and process in 2-4 quick pulses, pour this into the pot and mix with the tomato paste/olive oil infusion. If you prefer you pasta sauce a little chunky for a more rustic feel reserve about 1/3 - 1/2 cup of the tomatoes from the second can and process the remainder as before. If you desire a smooth sauce process the entire second can and add to the simmering pot along with the red wine ( if you do not have red wine substitute; 1 1/2 tbl red wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar or use grape juice and 1 tsp red wine vinegar) turn up the heat until it starts to bubble then back it down to the lowest setting place the lid on cocked off to allow steam to escape and reduce the sauce. Cook for about 30 min, again let your "inner chef " be your guide if you like it thicker cook it a little longer. Give it a taste and check the seasoning adjust it to your liking, if it is a little bitter you may need to add a little Sweet and Low to bring down the acid level. It really depends upon the tomatoes. I find S&L to work better than sugar to keep the flavor savory. Ladle the hot sauce into clean jars and store in the refrigerator up to 4 weeks it also freezes well for up to 6 months. 

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