I love tomato sauce. It's one of my comfort foods, in all kinds of weather. But, I have different variations for this sauce depending on the weather: it's slightly richer and more robust in the cooler weather and lighter in the warmer weather.
The recipe is easy and doesn't take all day. This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago when the weather was warm. The ingredients were:
one whole head of garlic, chopped fine
dried oregano - to your taste
fennel seed - to your taste
red pepper flakes - to your taste
Lots of fresh basil, chopped
1 can San Marzano whole tomatoes, 28 oz
1 can Red Pack tomato paste
Red wine - light body like Chianti, Pinot Noir (confession: I actually used some White Zin because I didn't have any kind of red in the house!)
Pinch of sugar
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
In your favorite pot, heat olive oil. When shimmering, turn down the flame and add garlic. Stir - do not let it burn. Add the dried oregano, fennel seed and red pepper flakes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Add the can of San Marzano tomatoes, including the liquid. Stir. I then take a potato masher and mash the tomatoes until I get the consistency I want - I often leave larger bits of the tomatoes in the sauce because I like it. Let this cook for about 5 minutes.
At this point, I take the pot off the flame and add one of those aluminum thingies that prevents food from burning when you have to simmer it for awhile. Then I put the pot back on that thingie and continue cooking.
Add the tomato paste to the sauce and stir until smooth. Then fill up the tomato paste can with the red wine - right to the top. Add the wine to the sauce and stir to blend. Let the sauce start to gurgle and make plopping noises, then turn down the flame and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 25 to 30 minutes. Taste for salt and sweetness of the tomatoes - I usually add a little sugar, along with salt and pepper to taste.
Chop up a handful of fresh basil and add that to the sauce. Let the sauce continue simmering until you feel like it's done - I usually let the sauce cook for about a total of at least 1 hour.
Variations for cooler weather: Saute some pancetta in the olive oil before adding the garlic and herbs. Add the tomato paste to the olive oil and cook; then add the wine and let flavor develop with the pancetta, herbs and spices. Then add the tomatoes. Add a bay leaf to the simmering sauce along with a washed rind from your parmesan or grana padana cheese - this does impart a richer and deeper flavor than the warm weather sauce. Don't forget to add the chopped fresh basil!
If you're making meatballs or chicken meatballs like I do, add a ladle of the sauce to the meat as your wetting agent. It flavors the meat nicely.
Happy Ruby Tuesday, everyone! Click here to see other offerings for RT.