Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Tony's Soon to Be World Famous Red Sauce
This post is dedicated to Tony, a great cook and even better friend who shared his mother's recipe and methods with me.
Sauce, Gravy, Spaghetti Sauce, Red Sauce, Marinara call it anything you want, just please don't buy it in a jar. In fact, please join the Society For the Elimination of Sauce in a Jar on Facebook
Does the idea of potted meat gross you out as much as it does me? (it should!) Do you watch the "gourmet" cat food commercial and at the end think "you aren't fooling me, that's garbage meat with salt, chemicals and a couple peas thrown in." If so, you are right! If not, this may be the wrong blog for you. Things that come pre-cooked in jars are made with the cheapest ingredients available, including vegetables you would throw away. Then because the color isn't right (because the vegetables weren't good) they add dye. Next they add things to make it taste like sauce, but not herbs and spices; instead they use inexpensive chemicals and sugar. Now here's the fun part -- they charge you MORE for that jar of inferior sauce than you'd ever pay for making it yourself.
I can hear your thoughts. I can see the rigid posture, the wary stare you are giving me. "Fine, it tastes better and it may be a little less expensive, but how long is this going to take and is it really that good?" YES it's that much better and it won't take long. Sauce is my Sunday morning activity. It took me 17 minutes to get the ingredients into the pot and walk away. Then another 15 minutes tasting (oh such hard work) and dishing it up for storage. It simmered for 2 hours and made my house smell like heaven in a way no air freshener could. (Is it hard to believe I was the fat kid :)
Please; make the sauce. You'll be happy, your family will be happy, the sun will shine, birds will sing all will be right with the world.
A word about tomatoes. All tomatoes are not created equal. If you are lucky enough to have a garden where your tomatoes actually taste like tomatoes then making sauce is even more fun and you get to use a food mill! For the rest of us, skip the produce aisle. The tasteless "fresh" tomatoes available in the supermarket are picked green, gassed and allowed to turn red in a warehouse (I can't call that "ripening") In this case canned tomatoes are superior.
Not all canned tomatoes are created equal. Tomatoes need sun, dry climate and volcanic ash in order to taste good. The one place you find this trifecta of goodness is in Italy. Buy Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano. Don't buy "Italian Style" tomatoes, you are not getting what you pay for in flavor or quality. More of the manipulation by the food marketers ... but I digress. In my Publix, Cento Italian Plum tomatoes are available for about $2.60 per 28oz can. Other tomatoes are about $2.00 per 28oz can so we aren't talking about a huge extra expense by any stretch of the imagination. Recently at Costco, I was able to purchase 100oz cans of Nina brand San Marzano Tomatoes for $3.60 per can (making them less per ounce than the garbage tomatoes in the supermarket).
Italian tomatoes typically come with basil in the can. I went a little nutty in a quest to find them without the basil because I like to season my own sauce. In the end (read one year and two prescriptions later) I determined that a little basil in a large can is not like buying the diced tomatoes that are mixed with peppers or garlic (which are always over seasoned) There's very little basil flavor imparted in the sauce. I remove the gross basil when I open the can and add fresh from my garden.
Olive oil to coat the pan
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large white onion, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and chopped to 1/2 inch
8 - 10 whole cloves garlic *See Note
4T dried oregano
2 280z cans Italian Tomatoes
1/2 jar roasted red peppers (optional)
6T fresh chopped Italian parsley
6T fresh chopped basil
Generous dash Worcestershire sauce (measuring I'm going to say 4T but I don't measure)
Kosher salt to taste (at least 3T)
Fresh ground black pepper
Heat the pan over medium high. Put the pepper flakes into the cold oil. When they start to "dance" in the pan you know your oil is hot. Add the onions and carrots. Cook until the onions are getting some color and the carrots start to soften; -- about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and oregeno. Cook 3 - 4 minutes longer taking care to soften but not burn the garlic.
Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients to the pan. Bring to a simmer and let cook for at least 20 minutes cooking
Let it simmer 20 minutes longer and taste it. At this point nobody knows what I'll do, sometimes I decide we need a splash of wine, sometimes I put some beef broth in, sometimes hot sauce. It's always hard to know, but exercise caution here. The Culinary Institute of America would likely cringe to hear me say this, but this is a "mother sauce." Make it taste good, but don't over flavor the sauce or it will lose its versatility -- more about that later.
Now that you are happy with the taste; here comes the fun part! You need to blend the sauce. For this volume, a stick blender doesn't work well (if you make a double batch a stick blender will work great and you won't have to transfer the sauce). You'll likely have to blend in batches, I filled the blender twice. After the first batch pour the pureed sauce into a bowl and add the remaining sauce from the pot. Then put it all back in the pot and stir and taste for seasoning again.
Now let it simmer another 20 - 40 minutes until it's at the thickness you want. Allow the sauce to cool and transfer to storage containers. I use 32oz containers that our local Chinese take-out place uses, I just wash and reuse them. This sauce freezes really well. I can't tell you how long it will last in the freezer because I think our record is 3 weeks. All you have to do is take it out of the freezer in the morning and warm it.
*Note on garlic. I was feeling a little lazy so I bought the pre- peeled garlic in a jar. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's not as potent as fresh garlic. I typically double the amount of garlic I'm adding to a recipe if it's the pre-peeled kind. If you put that much fresh garlic into the sauce you would absolutely not have any vampires around!
Mother Sauce - I use this sauce as a base. Reheat and add a splash of vodka and cream -- Penne alla Vodka. Brown some pork and beef, add a dash of cream at the end, Bologanese sauce, heat on the stove top and reduce it a bit -- pizza sauce. Add some croutons, maybe a splash of broth or cream, you'll have fantastic tomato basil soup.
This recipe is a framework. If you like the flavored sauces at the store you can add those flavorings in the intensity you like. I never make this with roasted red peppers, but I had some around so I put them in. I liked it so much it may become a regular feature of the sauce. Try roasting the garlic before you add it to the sauce. (Just take a head of garlic, cut the top off, drizzle olive oil, wrap it in foil and put it in the oven when you are baking something else. It needs aobut 45 minutes at 350) I wouldn't put mushrooms in the base, if you like mushrooms in your sauce, sautee them, then add the sauce and reheat but they won't freeze very well. Mushrooms have such a high water content that freezing them changes the texture.
Tell me how you like this recipe! We like this best with plain old red table wine. The food is so good that we don't even try to be fancy with the wine. Cloud Line Pinot Noir is our "Fancy" choice, about $20 per bottle.
Go Wine in the kitchen! You can cook and wine and eat like royalty without paying the restaurant!