Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A lovely break from the everyday...

Things have been a bit crazy here, lately. I always have these visions of lovely summers full of picnics and road trips but it seems every summer I move into a new place, line up way too many projects or have some sort of major life event. This summer: check, check and check! Then again, if life were like my fantasies I would have nothing to look forward to, nothing to reach for.

Regardless, I took a brief break the other day to make a batch of something I use often but hadn't made in quite some time: tomato sauce. Mario Batali's Basic Sauce from Molto Italiano, to be precise. I love this sauce. It's become the sauce I turn to and always have on hand. In the book, Mario uses it again and again transforming it with bacon or peppers to create a multitude of dishes, which is absolutely fantastic. However, I use it even more often as my go-to pizza sauce for Pizza Friday (more on that, later).

But it isn't just the possibilities that I love about this sauce. What I really love is that the ingredients are so simple you probably already have most everything on hand and the recipe is mastered quickly so you'll be tweaking it to your tastes in just a batch or two. Jared, my fiancee, loves to add red pepper flakes, garlic, and even jalapenos to his sauce but he never does make a recipe by the book. This time, I added some spent parmegiano reggiano rinds when I threw in the tomatoes (2 smallish rinds) and it may be my best version yet. I wasn't sure it would make much difference, but as soon as it started to simmer I could smell the cheese in with the tomatoes and the flavor was light but unmistakable, unlike the jarred sauces I tend to avoid. I've turned over ideas of roasted garlic versions or one with sun-dried tomatoes, but I have yet to give them a try; another project for another day!

Basic Tomato Sauce
Originally Published in Molto Italiano by Mario Batali

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved

1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft.
3. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

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