Monday, March 16, 2009

Red Sauce

Warning: A wonderfully fragrant kitchen will result from this recipe. Do not attempt if you fear the adoration of your family and friends.

This is essentially the tomato sauce that my parents make, but it is one of those "little bit of this, little bit of that" recipes that will never be the same twice. I've noted approximate amounts for the ingredients, but I never measure them. It's easy to scale up or down with the tomatoes you have available, and it's great as a pasta or pizza sauce, or for anything else you need a tomato-base for, like veggie soup. I often make a large pot of it and freeze the rest to use later.

The Basics:
  • olive oil (1-2 T.)
  • minced or sliced garlic (3+ cloves)
  • oregano and basil (a big handful of each dried, or about 2-3 times as much fresh)
  • good tomatoes-- about 12 fresh paste/plum tomatoes (skinned, seeded and chopped or blended), or a large can of crushed or diced tomatoes. We like the Muir Glen canned tomatoes-- both the fire-roasted and the basil-added.
  • a splash or two of red wine or 1 grated carrot (for sweetness)

  • minced onion (about 1 small)
  • rosemary (fresh herbs are best but dried are fine)

  • chopped mushrooms, bell pepper, summer squash/zuccinni, more carrots (a handful or two added to the sofrito turns this basic marinara into a hearty meal of a sauce)
  • red pepper flakes (for an arrabbiata sauce)
  • a few rashers of bacon, cooked and crumbled (If it's not too salty, reserve a few T. of the bacon grease to use instead of olive oil for the sofrito.)

Step 1: Sofrito
Heat the oil over medium-low heat, add the garlic/onion and optional carrot/veggies, and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Crushed garlic burns easily, so add it with the herbs or stir constantly. When veggies are softened, add the herbs and cook and stir a few minutes longer, until fragrant--the sofrito, not you.

Step 2: Deglaze
At this point add the wine (if using) and stir to deglaze the pan of any browned bits. Add the tomatoes (they work for deglazing too if you left out the wine).

Step 3: Simmer
Simmer for a minimum of 10 minutes, but longer is better. Adjust herbs to taste if needed.

To thicken a thin sauce in a hurry, throw in a spoonful or two of tomato paste. Otherwise, simmer with the lid off to reduce. When using diced tomatoes you may want to blend the sauce, otherwise it will remain chunky.

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