Monday, December 22, 2008

BASIC training

any tri-state greaseball worth their salt prides themselves on being able to cook a great red sauce.

- "just like my grandmother's", they say.

i've sampled enough over the years to know that for the most part, they're right. an authentic red sauce is more than just the sum of its parts; you can taste beyond the garlic, onions, tomatoes and meats - you can taste the generations that have stood behind the recipe.

each individual has a unique red sauce that is the result of years of tradition and culinary superstition; it is the modern day family crest. many family recipes involve slow cooking various cuts of meat in a vat of well-seasoned tomato sauce until fork tender. a robust red sauced cooked in such a manner is referred to as a ragu, which in italian means "sauce." when you are eating sunday diner at 2pm with all of your zip relatives, odds are this is what you are having.

but what if you don't have 5 hours to kill making a "sunday sauce"? what if you only have 30 minutes? you need a sauce that comes together quick, tastes great and freezes well.

my friends, you need: BASIC.

Basic Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, minced
1 medium carrot, grated (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup red or marsala wine (optional)
2 (28oz can) whole peeled tomatoes and their juices

salt and pepper, to taste

1. empty the canned tomatoes into the work bowl of a food processor or blender. PULSE until well incorporated; about 5-6 one-second pulses should do the trick. if you just turn the processor up to full speed the tomatoes will aerate and become pink; we want deep red tomato sauce - use the pulses!

2. saute onions and grated carrot over medium high heat until well caramelized; about 10-12 minutes.

3. add the garlic, sriracha hot sauce, or crushed red pepper flakes. cook until fragrant; 1-2 minutes.

4. add the wine. cook over high heat until almost dry.

5. add tomato puree, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. add sugar, season and simmer, uncovered, for 23-35 minutes. DONE. either use it right away or cool it in an ice bath and keep refrigerated for up to one week, FREEZE indefinitely.

- versatile and delicious, this is a great workhorse sauce; use it whenever a basic tomato sauce is needed:

add some tomato paste and toss with pasta
add some stew meat and work on that signature ragu of yours
add some chicken breasts and fresh mozzarella, bake up some CHICKEN PARMIGIANA.

i picked up on this recipe while working at Lupa Osteria Romana. we would make a large batch 2-3x/week and use it for everything. red onions and marsala wine add a nice tang to it.

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

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