Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Real" Italian Sauce

Italians do not use a ton of different spices in their homemade tomato sauce. When I hear "I use 35 spices in my homemade tomato sauce" I know immediately that person is Americana/o. They also do not cook the sauce all day, or for 36 hours, another sign its an Americana chef. I am sure their sauce is good, but it's not the real Italian sauce I grew up eating on Sunday.

Italians, they have a basic sauce, that varies from region to region, family to family. Call it "sauce" or call it "gravy", this is the basis for all manner of dishes, from spaghetti and meatballs, to lasagna, to pizza, to eggplant parmesan.

Sundays in our house, we do as we did when I was a kid, we make "sauce". Last week, I made it in the crock pot and added frozen meatballs, we had meatball subs for dinner. This week, I may throw some Italian sausages in there and serve it over rigatoni.

In my family, mom never, ever used oregano in her sauce UNLESS she was making a "piziola" sauce. And this sauce was only for ONE recipe, steak piziola.

Here is my basic sauce recipe:

Sunday Tomato Sauce

3 16 oz cans crushed tomatoes or tomato puree* (Contadina is fine, or any Italian imported brand with San Marzano tomatoes are best)
1 small can tomato paste
2 tablespoons good olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced very thin
1 tsp sugar
salt/pepper to taste
fresh basil leaves, 2 or 3

Open all the cans first. Get a very large, heavy pot and heat the olive oil on medium heat. Saute the garlic until just fragrant NOT brown. (Only 30 seconds or so)

Now dump the tomatoes in the pot, stir and cover. Bring to a boil, stir, and turn down the heat. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and the sugar, salt and pepper, and the basil leaves.

Cover and simmer very gently on low heat, stirring occassionally.

If it gets too thick, add a little water. After 30 more minutes, you can add meatballs, sausages, or any other meat you like. Or leave it plain.

I cook mine about 1 hour to 1 and 1/2 hours total, if that. It will make the house smell like heaven. You can also simmer it on low in the crock pot all day.

* if you can find it, there's an Italian product called "passare" or "pasata" it is basically crushed fresh San Marzano tomatoes in a jar. I get it at my local Italian bakery/deli.  You can sub one jar of this for one of the cans. It is spectacular!

Freeze half this sauce in heavy freezer bags and serve the rest over pasta, on lasagna, or any dish calling for sauce.

Make it a Great Day!

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