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Tomato Sauces


Sthitch
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Since we have thread about meat loaves, pot roasts, and other dishes, I was surprised not to find one about Red Sauce

My wife makes a very good meat sauce that goes well with spaghetti or even as the sauce for our house lasagna, but I have been craving a basic tomato sauce that tastes more like tomatoes than anything else. This has served me well as a base tomato sauce to use in many applications.

Tomato Sauce

2 28 Oz Cans of San Marzano Tomatoes pureed just before use

1 Onion sliced

6-8 Garlic cloves coarsely chopped or smashed

1 small can of tomato paste

1 cup dry white wine

10 pepper corns

2 Bay leaves

3 or 4 sprigs of fresh Oregano

3 or 4 sprigs of fresh Parsley

10 Large Basil leaves torn into quarters

1 sprig of fresh Rosemary

1 sprig of fresh Thyme

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of sugar

Salt to taste

In pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add onion with a pinch of salt to sweat. When they become soft and a little brown, add garlic cook until the garlic is just soft. Add tomato paste, and cook until the color becomes a deep red. Add wine, and reduce. Once reduced, add pureed tomatoes. Add the rest of the ingredients minus sugar and salt. Once everything is blended bring to a simmer. Taste, and add the appropriate amount of sugar. If the onions are sweet only a teaspoon will likely be necessary. Simmer the sauce for about an hour, and then strain.

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I do a similar, but simpler version of your recipe, using Pomi chopped tomatoes and without tomato paste. For the basic sauce, I omit fennel and red pepper, and I include a diced carrot with the onion and a stalk of celery with its leaves along with the parsley and thyme. I remove the herbs, but do not puree the sauce. I like it kind of chunky.

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The best tomato sauce I have ever tasted was made by a friend of Roberto Donna's when he had some overly ripe (!) plum tomatoes that he cooked down with fresh basil, garlic and olive oil for several hours. I remember that he said he had "carried the tomatoes" from somewhere but I forget where. At the time I had the impression he brought them on the plane back from Italy a few days before. Still, for all of the sauces I have ever tasted in my life, this was the best.

To this day no one knows that I snuck into the kitchen later and took a spoon and scraped the remaining sauce off of the bottom of the pot before it was washed.

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Steve, I made your tomato sauce today: it was excellent. I did change one thing-rather than using sprigs of spices I picked the leaves off of the stems, chopped them and added them to the chunky San Marzano tomatoes (from Balducci's which were excellent). I did not puree them nor strain the sauce after cooking. Carol and I wanted a chunky sauce but I believe the taste must have been close if not identical to what you make. Thanks for posting this. Took me a while but when I first saw it I knew it was just a matter of time until I made it.

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I have been craving a basic tomato sauce that tastes more like tomatoes than anything else.

According to Waitman and Mrs. B I sold my soul to the devil in grad school; all my grains, beans and dried things are stored either in recycled Hellman's or spaghetti sauce jars, the contents of the latter dumped on top of browned Italian sausage from the nice BMW-driving Italian-American butcher.

That said, I would urge you to at least thumb through a copy of Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking with an eye to her versions of a simple, quick tomato sauce.

The use of lots of different ingredients, especially herbs, dried or fresh, is largely an Italian-American phenomenon, although there are examples of plenty of different things added sparingly in different regions and different households throughout Italy as you know. Garlic & anchovies, for example. Garlic smashed, turned golden in the olive oil and fat of the pancetta before removal, while allowing the red chili flakes to stay put. Tons of basil and tons of minced garlic cooked until sweet and soft. Batali's thyme.

However, the reference to mirepoix above reflects what I learned from Hazan as opposed to the Brooklyn-born third-generation I-A who cooked sauce for me across the street from two of the most famous pizzerias in the country. 2 T of finely chopped celery, carrot and onion softened in the olive oil, then plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped, but not pureed since some texture distinguishes the sauce from most commercial products. Salt. That's it. Maybe some basil. Done in half an hour, 45 minutes tops, when the tomato separates from the oil.

However, the very best simple sauce I ever made was also based on Hazan's recipe, using the great plum tomatoes available for a short time at the farmer's market last summer. A large quantity of butter is melted, then the chopped tomatoes are added along with an onion, peeled, but left either whole or in quarters, removed at the end. Not to die for, but a reason to live. Very good with canned tomatoes, too.

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According to Waitman and Mrs. B I sold my soul to the devil in grad school; all my grains, beans and dried things are stored either in recycled Hellman's or spaghetti sauce jars, the contents of the latter dumped on top of browned Italian sausage from the nice BMW-driving Italian-American butcher.

.....

However, the very best simple sauce I ever made was also based on Hazan's recipe, using the great plum tomatoes available for a short time at the farmer's market last summer. A large quantity of butter is melted, then the chopped tomatoes are added along with an onion, peeled, but left either whole or in quarters, removed at the end. Not to die for, but a reason to live. Very good with canned tomatoes, too.

I've seen your posts about Italian cooking, your penance is proceeding apace. :)

I increasingly find myself, stitch-like, craving simple, sharp sauces that (fortunately) take literally only minutes to of work. The other day I sweated some onion and garlic in a pot, added canned whole tomatoes (I am convince that only the whole tomatoes taste right; his may be a delusion) dried peppers, capers, and dried herbs. Quite tasty aside penne and a fritata, with a few tosted pine nuts on top just for the hell of it.

In the summer, I make a similar sauce that's almost just warmed tomatoes, chopped and seeded, topped with fresh basil. Very fresh and perfectly suited for dinner a la terrasse, or, as we like to call it, the front porch.

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However, the very best simple sauce I ever made was also based on Hazan's recipe, using the great plum tomatoes available for a short time at the farmer's market last summer. A large quantity of butter is melted, then the chopped tomatoes are added along with an onion, peeled, but left either whole or in quarters, removed at the end. Not to die for, but a reason to live. Very good with canned tomatoes, too.
If you are wondering which canned tomatoes might be the best with this recipe, some of us got together last June for a canned tomato taste test. Click here to find out the winner. :)
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Ma na gia ba! (As they say in Puglia, "Mache!" in Tuscany, "Fiddlesticks" in...well who knows where these days.)

As in the taste tests of Cook's Illustrated, I think preferences develop in Freudian patterns, that is, according to what we grew up with or later, developed strong feelings for.

I like Le Valle, non DOP, is fine, just because they do seem more like the canned stuff I associate with living in Italy. I used to like the organic ones at Whole Foods before the company bought up the originally independent Italian business. Furamo's or whatever they're called are good, too. But, sorry, they gotta be Italian plum tomatoes and may those who decided to make a bigger profit by switching from thin tomatoey-liquid to thick puree in the cans spend a longer time carrying rocks up the Mountain of Purgatory than I.

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If you are wondering which canned tomatoes might be the best with this recipe, some of us got together last June for a canned tomato taste test. Click here to find out the winner. :)

The Hunt's won only because four of the Hunt brothers were on the tasting panel (Mike, York, Uke, and Herk).

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The use of lots of different ingredients, especially herbs, dried or fresh, is largely an Italian-American phenomenon ...
I am not sure at which point I wrote that I was trying to make an authentic Italian tomato sauce. I set out to make a tomato sauce that fit the taste I was looking for, I could really give a rats ass if it is authentic.
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I am not sure at which point I wrote that I was trying to make an authentic Italian tomato sauce. I set out to make a tomato sauce that fit the taste I was looking for, I could really give a rats ass if it is authentic.

Why all the hostility? You did say that you wanted a sauce that tasted like tomatoes. Seems to me that adding a bunch of other ingredients, while making a tasty sauce, doesn't really help that now does it.

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Why all the hostility? You did say that you wanted a sauce that tasted like tomatoes. Seems to me that adding a bunch of other ingredients, while making a tasty sauce, doesn't really help that now does it.

utstanding. Yet there are comments that, well maybe, there is something better that doesn't have so many spices or seasoning or herbs in it. Steve's sauce is delicious, probably equal to or superior to any tomato sauce that I have ever had in my life anywhere on earth. Regardless of how many spices, herbs or what not were included in it. As for tomatoes I bought San Marzano canned tomatoes (La Valle) from Balducci's that were delicious. Yes, I have had better. From a grandmother who brought back her own from Panzano and let them ripen to the point that they were almost rotten ("overly ripe") and made sauce with them. The La Valle canned San Marzano tomatoes were 95% as good. Maybe as good if I had both side by side and could compare them.

I should also note this: I made Steve's sauce on Sunday using pasta that I brought back from Soave. I have had this for lunch or dinner four days in a row now. Not a drop has been thrown out or wasted: all of it has gone into my mouth. I cannot tell you how good this sauce was. I'd even offer a taste to someone/anyone on this board who lives near me. Unfortunately, it is all gone. This includes the scrapings from the skillet I tossed the spaghetti in. An outstanding sauce that I am sincerely appreciative he chose to share with us.

Again, Steve, thank you.

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Why all the hostility? You did say that you wanted a sauce that tasted like tomatoes. Seems to me that adding a bunch of other ingredients, while making a tasty sauce, doesn't really help that now does it.
First it is not really hostility than it is an annoyance. Why? Because I felt that I was being told that what I have come-up with is not worth making because it is too "Italian American". If that is what was not meant by the statement then so be it.

Secondly, I wrote that I was looking for "a basic tomato sauce that tastes more like tomatoes than anything else", not that I wanted something that tasted like tomatoes. What I was striving for was something that did not taste of the wine, or even Opossum. The ingredients that I used all complimented the flavor of tomatoes, and when strained out only leave a hint of their complementary flavor, but did not distract from the tomatoes.

Frankly, I don’t care if someone doesn’t like this, or makes it another way or thinks that the tomatoes I use are a waste of time. I was simply sharing something that works for me.

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My wife and I went to Florence in October for what was originally meant to be a long weekend...I found the city to be much like the Duomo, beautiful on the outside, empty on the inside.

For the record:

1) I misinterpreted the original post and thought you were asking for suggestions and further recommendations.

2) I spent formative years in an Italian-American neighborhood. Fond memories. I think Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen is swell.

3) Roberto Rossellini? Great director. Martin Scorsese? Him too.

4) The facade of Santa Maria del Fiori, the cathedral of Florence, is largely a nineteenth-century concept of how a late-medieval church ought to look since it was left incomplete with rough stone above the main portals. However, all the busy pink, green and white has much in common with Victorian furniture. It's basically a pastiche. The incredible statues of apostles by Nanni di Banco and Donatello that originally flanked the doors are now relegated to the Museo del Opera del Duomo where you kind of have to squat close or lay down on your back on the floor to get the full effect of John the Evangelist and Mark in particular.

The interior, yes, is not very interesting. There's nothing like the pulpits of Siena or Pisa, the columns of Amiens or stained glass of Chartres. However, what you see there reflects not the original appearance of a church enlarged after the Florentines decided to compete with civic rivals and rededicate Santa Reparata (an obscure martyr saint) to the Virgin Mary. Instead, you're looking at the results of a Neo-classical taste for bare surfaces, an aesthetic that destroyed a great deal of medieval and early modern/Renaissance art, painting in particular. You'll find some important things in that space, nonetheless, such as frescoes that substitute for true equestrian monuments by two major painters of the fifteenth century in the nave to your left.

That said, you are free to like the exterior of the Duomo and you don't have to admire frescoes just because they're by Big Name Artists. Lots of people hate Castagno, especially.

I have also read one guidebook to Italy that describes Florence as a outdoor shopping mall and I had to laugh. It's true. Tourism has affected the city enormously. Yet some of us do not find it at all empty. There are wonderful places to be indoors and interesting things to see outside. Many of these pertain to food, whether its consumption or acquisition, but not all.

In other words, we disagree on some things and agree on others.

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At Dupont, Heinz at Next-Step Produce had organic seconds for $2 a lb. He also has deals on large baskets (bushels?) full of plum toms., but it's too early in the season for him, perhaps.

I love Garners, too, which sells to too few shoppers at the new H&HS market on Wednesdays. I slow-roasted their yellow Italian plum tomatoes a couple of weeks ago. Glorious! (Farm's prices are very reasonable.)

*********************

This is as good a place as any to give you some good advice for dealing with this summer's extreme heat: EAT MORE TOMATO SKINS W FAT!! You know Marcella Hazan's simple Italian tomato sauce made with a quartered onion, salt and a stick of butter? Just keep the skins on prepped tomatoes and reduce the amount of butter if you must, or use olive oil instead. Lycopene in the fruit protects your skin and I forget what it is about fat that enhances its properties, but there you go.

Yup.

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Just keep the skins on prepped tomatoes and reduce the amount of butter if you must, or use olive oil instead. Lycopene in the fruit protects your skin and I forget what it is about fat that enhances its properties, but there you go.

i have maybe a dumb question for you. at some point, do you remove the skins from the sauce? (the link to the recipe above shows the sauce going through a mill, which makes a luscious sauce if you want to go through the effort.)

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i have maybe a dumb question for you. at some point, do you remove the skins from the sauce? (the link to the recipe above shows the sauce going through a mill, which makes a luscious sauce if you want to go through the effort.)

I just made a fresh tomato sauce using red and orange cherry tomatoes and one large red-skinned tomato. A friend brought me a bagful of cherry tomatoes from his plants and I had some others from the Dupont market. After I had sauteed and softened the tomatoes with some onion and garlic, I put it all into my Vitamix blender and blended for a minute or so on high. I had considered straining the puree, but the skins were completely liquified and the sauce was creamy smooth. I put it back into the pan with some fresh herbs and reduced it for a while to thicken it.

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Yesterday, Mr. MV and I processed our big box of Garner's tomatoes into sauce. First, I cored and split the 'maters in half, then added to a pot and cooked until somewhat tender. I then placed batches of the cooked tomatoes into a blender, and poured the mix into a food mill where Mr. MV cranked away and discarded the seeds and skin.

I cooked the sauce gently, adding a handful of lardons (and some grease), salt, pepper, butter, an onion, evoo and a little garlic and onion powder. Today, I'll ladle the sauce into plastic quart containers and freeze.

It made a lot-I'll post how many quarts I got out of this in a bit :)

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I just made a fresh tomato sauce using red and orange cherry tomatoes and one large red-skinned tomato. A friend brought me a bagful of cherry tomatoes from his plants and I had some others from the Dupont market. After I had sauteed and softened the tomatoes with some onion and garlic, I put it all into my Vitamix blender and blended for a minute or so on high. I had considered straining the puree, but the skins were completely liquified and the sauce was creamy smooth. I put it back into the pan with some fresh herbs and reduced it for a while to thicken it.

liquifying the skin sounds like a good way to do this, although i was wondering how much more nutritional value you derive from keeping them in the sauce. the little quills the skin rolls up into don't ruin the sauce but i try to avoid them. i also try to avoid using a food mill (too much churning), so skin the tomatoes and seed them over a sieve, keeping the juice, before putting them in the pan. typically, i then add this to garlic sauteed lightly in olive oil and maybe add some butter.

deborah madison has you throwing cherry tomatoes into a hot pan until they break down, adding a little water as needed to prevent scorching. those are relatively easy to push through a sieve, and then you add the butter. it's smooth as silk.

my favorite this time of year, and i am just getting around to it, is tomato compote -- basically skinned tomatoes on a bed of basil, and some chopped garlic, drizzled generously with olive oil so it comes maybe a third up their sides, salt and pepper. you start them off at 375 degress for 15 minutes or so, then turn the oven down to 350 and cook them until they are carmelized, another hour or more. these do well in the freezer. you may want to whisk everything together if you are using them as a sauce, the oil picks up the juice. it can be runny for a sauce, and if that's a problem you can cook them down in a pan, or start out using less oil. anyway, they have a unique flavor and they have a really nice aroma when you are baking them, right up there with bread.

the cost of heirloom tomatoes this summer has almost caught up to what they charge for them at whole foods (which can be canadian and can come from greenhouses): generally, $4.50 a pound! it seems to me that the annual spurt in their cost is more related to demand than overhead. the dupont market has been mobbed lately, and people seem happy to pay these sky-high prices. i told someone at toigo that the price of produce these days is getting so high that the day will come when they will have to guard their fields. he said they already do, as much as they can, but there is still some theft.

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I know, I know. Red Pack scored high in the mdt-hosted pasta-making and tomato sauce tasting that predates my membership here. Still, we are all entitled to our own opinions and here's mine:

A company that calls its tomatoes "Italian-Style Peeled Plum Shaped Tomatoes" (with natural basil flavor-italics my own) ought to be selling Roma tomatoes that are actually shaped a bit like pears--oblong like Italian prune-plums at the very least.

The label for Tutto Rosso is idyllic pastoral. All graphics are a throw-back to era of the major late 19th and early 20th diaspora from (mostly) Southern Italy and Sicily, including the lettering. Superimposed on the illustrated graphics are two flanking clusters of tomatoes that seem suspended from the banner-like scroll of the brand name: the only photograph on the label, suggesting documentation. They are shaped like pears, but not the contents! Each and every tomato is round like an American plum, I guess.

Shouldn't this kind of false advertising be illegal?

Please forgive me for incredibly nerdy little rant. Ice storm not only to blame.

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This year's tomatoes have seemed unusually watery and as Porcupine has said, plum varieties have been hard to find. It simply hasn't been the fruit's best year. After combining a few large, heirloom seconds with twice as many plum tomatoes in what was essentially Batali's recipe, I ended up with a very thin sauce. So, I bought more plum tomatoes this weekend and threw in fresh basil, stems as well as leaves after heating minced garlic in oil, letting sauce reduce by a quarter to thicken. Much improved, but I have to admit, the additional glop of canned, unsalted, organic tomato paste did the trick. Since I have a fairly bitter olive oil and I was going all not-me w this batch, I even sprinkled in sugar. Really, really pleased with results.

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This year's tomatoes have seemed unusually watery and as Porcupine has said, plum varieties have been hard to find. It simply hasn't been the fruit's best year.

So far, this has been the worst tomato season I can remember. If the tomatoes aren't watery, they're mealy, and either way they haven't much flavor. I finally found some tomatoes that were better than "well, not bad I guess" just this past weekend, but I had to go all the way to the farm stand in Woodstock, VA. There I found some plain round, red tomatoes that still fall short of real excellence, but are very nice. So after I bought a few and tried one, I went back and bought ten more. Now I have to figure out how to use them before they rot. I suppose I could combine them with some plum tomatoes, which I don't have, to make a red sauce. Or perhaps combine them with some commercially prepared passata for a fresher-tasting sauce than you could produce with the passata alone. Does anyone besides me use the Bionaturae stuff they have at Whole Foods? It's very good.

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