Elizabeth here. I was prompted to start a post on this after I came in from work to the most *heavenly* scent filtering through the halls, and frankly, Michael needs to tell you the secrets to a simple sauce using some canned tomatoes, some garlic, and some luck.
I try not to be a food elitist. It’s not been an easy task, and more than once I have been (rightly) reamed out for criticizing another home-cook’s fare. Please understand that this does not apply to the restaurant world where we pay top-dollar for food, there I’ll be as critical or nice as I like. But the home kitchen comes with a different set of rules: homecooking is a gift given from one to another, not a service that’s been purchased. As such, the consumer mantra does not (or should not) apply.
How does this apply to tomatoes? (masterfully segued!) When it comes to the humble red sauce, I used to think there were only two options: either a lovingly dawdled-over all-day Italian grandmother-styer production or da-red-in-da-jar. Both are great at what they’re great at- but are these my only options? A six-hour simmer or a complete concession of creative control?
Enter my friend Caitlin. During junior year of college, she spent a semester in Rome. While I’m sure she had a whole mess of enriching experiences or whatever also, she brought back this simple and amazing recipe for a tomato sauce that she claimed everyone used in Rome (if I’m wrong, feel free to tell me and I’ll send her contact information to you so you can correct her). She also taught me about real bruschetta well before TV chefs started harping on it, but that’s a post for another day.
To begin, take 2 cans of tomatoes (Wait! Not fresh? Actually, from what I hear, in Italy they understand that tomatoes are not good most of the year and canned are substituted. If it’s May-July, use the fresh ones if you like. Here’s a handy tomato converter). Place them in a sauce pan over medium-high heat with some chopped garlic, and a good amount of salt & pepper. And that’s it. Allow the sauce to cook down for at least 20 minutes, but really until most of the juicy stuff has cooked off and the mixture is thickened. If the sauce seems to be burning or sticking, turn the heat down to medium. Really, the key is reduction. Just take your time. Also, you can add some red wine at the beginning of cooking if you’re into that kind of thing. I’m into that kind of thing.
Literally, that’s it. And it’s one of the test tomato sauces I’ve ever had. It comes together fast with a minimum of trouble and it goes with just about anything. Surprisingly, it lacks that super-acidic twang of many quick sauces (which can be counteracted with grated carrot, by the way). I could go on at length about the pristine majesty of simplistic cuisine and the joy of deconvoluting your cooking, but I’ll save that for another time. Until next time, Ciao.