Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tomato, Tomahto, Let's Call the Whole Thing Sauce

For a long time, I bought jarred tomato sauce and wished I knew how to make it from scratch. I was convinced that it must be complicated with recipes handed down through the generations. Oh, was I so very wrong. Once I made it, I never went back. It's easy and tastes so much better than anything from a jar.

One of the big topics in my house related to tomato sauce was how much sugar was in it. Tomatoes are acidic, so it stands to reason that you would need to cut the acid with something. I grew up near Philadelphia, so I've heard many old world tricks like stirring with a wooden spoon at just the right time, but no one could tell me when just the right time was. "You'll just know it" was a common response. One recipe I looked at called for baking soda to cut the acidity, but that just didn't sit well with me.

My tomato sauce is at it's most basic. It's just a few ingredients which means that there really isn't anywhere for something to hide. To that end, I use whole, canned San Marzano plum tomatoes. These are the ones I prefer to use, but in a pitch I have used other brands.

A word about herbs, in a pinch, I use dried herbs, but I much prefer using fresh. As a matter of fact, I keep pots of basil and oregano year round so that I can cut my own and save money on the expensive little packages at the grocery store.

Oh, yeah and when I make sauce, I make it for a crowd. That way I have plenty of left over sauce for other uses or meals in a minute.

Ally's Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce
3 large cans San Marzano Whole Plum Tomatoes
2 large stalks of celery with leaves removed, finely diced (I use my food processor to cut)
2 large carrots (or a hand full of baby carrots), finely diced (I use my food processor to cut)
Olive oil (not Extra Virgin)
A few cloves of garlic (this is a matter of taste), minced
10 - 20 basil leaves (this is a matter of taste and size of leaves), chopped
5 sprigs of oregano (this is a matter of taste), chopped
Salt (I use Kosher Salt)

The steps:
  1. Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat.
  2. Pour in enough Olive Oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
  3. When heated, add the carrots and celery and cook until soft.
  4. Add minced garlic and let cook for a few minutes, as soon as the garlic becomes fragrant, it's time to add the tomatoes.
  5. Add the liquid from the cans and then crush the whole tomatoes by hand into the pan.
  6. Add herbs and stir.
  7. Season with salt and pepper
  8. Once the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat and maintain a simmer until desired thickness.
Typically, my sauce cooks for 30 minutes, but I have been known to let it go for up to an hour. Its not an exact science here. Tomatoes can vary in water content, so you need to go by the consistency that you desire.

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