Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tomato sauce

The mother of all tomato sauces.

This is the basis for many Italian and other dishes. It keeps very well in the fridge and I try to always have some stock in ther for a quick pasta or whatever...

The source: 

3kg of garden-grown tomatoes

The other ingredients: 

1 large onion,
2 cloves of garlic,
some fresh herbs from the garden: basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano.
'Secret' ingredients: anchovy fillets and some extra canned tomatoes for color and sweetness.

Finely dice the onions and sweat them over medium heat for 10 minutes until translucent but not brown.
Add the finely minced garlic and sweat for another 2-3 minutes.
Add 1 dried red chili pepper, finely chopped, 1 tsp dried Italian herbs, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tbsp of sugar, 3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped.
Set heat to medium high. Add chopped tomatoes and other ingredients and fry for 5 minutes. Do not add water. Return to medium low heat. Add lid to pan and slowly simmer for 1 hour.
As canned tomatoes go, these are the best: San Marzano tomatoes from Sardinia. If you can’t get them, any other peeled tomato will do just fine. Just be sure to taste them before you out them in. Any chemical, starchy or bitter taste is a sign you should look for better brand next time.

In general: always taste any pre-packaged ingredients you add to your dish. If you are anything like I used to be, you would mindlessly pour a quart of 'Cooking Cream' into your dish, only to find afterwards that it tastes like rancid butter. So taste before you throw it in!
Also always check the ingredient list. A can of tomatoes should contain tomatoes. A package of cream should contain cream. And not much more. There is no need for 'citric acid', modified tapioca starch' or 'beta carotene'. Though none of these things are harmful, you don't need them either. So do not buy or use that stuff!
Only one way do this: with your hands. Check the tomatoes and remove any hard bits left from the cores and then squeeze.
Add the peeled tomatoes to the sauce and simmer slowly for another 30 minutes. Notice the difference in color. That’s why I add the canned tomatoes.
Clean your fresh herbs, making sure you remove any sand. Remove leaves from stems and finely chop them.
Add the fresh herbs and simmer for another 15 minutes max. If you cook the fresh herbs for too long, you will deminish their flavor.
Blend the sauce using a stick blender until all big chunks have disappeared. You can leave it as chunky as you like, of course, but I like to make mine pretty smooth. It's more versatile that way.

The end result: just under 4 liters of perfect tomato sauce as base for many, many recipes. 
I will post some example dishes soon. Stay tuned!

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