Friday, January 23, 2015

The BEST tomato sauce recipe for those who aren't Italian...

...and maybe for some of those who are!  If you are like me, you didn't grow up in a house with the sweet smells of a wonderful red sauce simmering away every Sunday afternoon, nor were you taught the secret family recipe handed down through generations, and you have been constantly disappointed by every recipe you find for traditional pasta sauce!

I have been attempting to make a respectable version of spaghetti sauce for 19 years, and it wasn't until the 17th year that I started getting compliments on my sauce.  I am pretty proud of it now, but it is not perfect by far!  Suggestions are welcome.

Here are some things I learned along the way, in order of importance:

  • More isn't always better! I always thought that maybe it needs more garlic, onion, pepperoncini, capers, artichokes, anything Italian, plus a TON of spices to strengthen the flavor.  It turns out that the ingredient proportions are a pretty delicate balance and we should let the TOMATOES be the star.
  • Don't burn the garlic! Only saute it for a few seconds before dumping in some tomatoes or something else to stop the frying and start the simmering.
  • Cook it all day, perhaps in the crock-pot.  I have done 30 minute sauces and 12 hour sauces.  During the work-week, you can still make a decent sauce fast, but the longer you cook it the better it tastes.  
  • You will NEED some specialty "secret" ingredients that no chef would ever ell you about.  And this is what differentiates great sauce from good sauce.  My favorites are anchovies (don't worry it won't taste like fish) and sun-dried tomatoes.

Here is the recipe for 1 lb spaghetti.  I know this is not your standard recipe formatting, but this is how I like to read and cook.  I hope you enjoy it.

1/2 cup olive oil
             In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.

1/4 cup onion, small dice
1 rib celery, small dice
1 cup diced carrots (optional, but healthy!)
             Add onion, celery and carrots and saute for 3 minutes

1 large clove (2 small) garlic, minced
             Add garlic and saute VERY briefly (30 seconds max) before adding next ingredient

1 pound ground beef, turkey, or favorite sausage (optional, but really great for flavor!)
             QUICKLY add meat and brown.  No need to drain the fat.

1/2 gallon (more or less) tomato puree.  San Marzano from the garden, fresh or frozen, is preferred.
             Add tomato puree and bring to a boil.

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, minced
1 Tablespoon Anchovy paste or finely minced anchovies
1 Tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1-2 small cans tomato paste (if you like it thick, use 2)
              Add these and stir well, until the paste is incorporated.  Once mixture is boiling, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for as long as you have before dinner. Consider transferring sauce to a slow-cooker and cooking on low for several hours.

1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
               Wait to add spices until you start boiling the pasta.  A later addition of spices, so I am told, increases the flavor.  

               At this point, correct the seasoning.  You will probably want to add more salt.  A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce or more ground pepper will also increase the intensity of the flavor.  You may want to add a bit of good balsamic vinegar to give it and extra punch of richness, but not too much because acidity is your enemy.  Mangia!

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