The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Grazie mille!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recipe: The Best Tomato Sauce

My tomato sauce is extremely popular. The reason is simple; quality ingredients.

I start with extra-virgin olive oil. I know, you don't have to. Lower quality olive oil is fine for sauteing and frying. But I got tired of buying two grades of oil and extra-virgin is the better grade, so why not use the best for all applications. Good enough for Mario Batali, good enough for me.

I absolutely insist on San Marzano tomatoes in my sauces. I drive to the next town to stock up on San Marzanos if I can't get them locally.  San Marzano tomatoes are a variety of plum tomato that comes from the town of the same name in Campania, near Naples, where they grow in the rich, volcanic soil from Mount Vesuvius. Compared to the Roma Tomatoes with which most people are familiar, San Marzano tomatoes are thinner and pointier in shape. The flesh is much thicker with fewer seeds, and the flavor is much stronger, more sweet and less acidic. It makes all the difference in the world in the taste of a good tomato sauce.

And I use fresh herbs. When I can't grow my own basil, I get the fresh stuff from the produce aisle. Like all fresh herbs, it needs to go into the pot near the very end of the cooking process to maximize the great, fresh flavor.

Here's my recipe for La Salsa di Pomodoro Migliore (The Best Tomato Sauce):

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 (28 oz) cans San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water
1 tsp sugar
pinch of red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
a few leaves of fresh basil, torn into small pieces

In a sauce pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and add onion. Cook for about five minutes before adding garlic. Cook an additional five minutes, or until onions are translucent and garlic is lightly golden. NEVER allow garlic to brown!

Add all the tomato products. Add the chicken stock, water, and sugar. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. If a smooth, non-chunky sauce is desired, blend with an immersion blender. Cover and bring to a simmer.

Simmer the sauce for about an hour, adding in the fresh basil during the last ten minutes or so of cooking time. The sauce should be fairly thin, but not watery. For a thicker sauce, simmer uncovered until sauce reduces to desired consistency.

Serves 6 to 8

Buon appetito!

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