I learned how to cook following Marcella Hazan’s cookbook recipes. This insanely good tomato sauce may be improved upon with herbs and spices, but it’s pretty good using just these three simple ingredients. Serve over any pasta with a side of greens or a simple salad with a clean, light dressing.
Assembly asks only one challenging step, removing the tomato skin. This step really does make a difference and once you do it once or twice it’s no big deal to getting that unmistakeable flavor of tomatoes.
2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes (plums are ideal but use whatever you have on hand, even a 28-oz can)
3-5 tablespoons butter- I use the Earth Balance/Smart Balance
1 medium onion, cut in half (not sliced)
salt and pepper, to taste
grated parmigiano, to taste
chile peppers (optional)
You don’t have to be a purist when it comes to the kind of tomato to use. I use whatever I have on hand and mix them: plum, vine, beefsteak, heritage varieties. You can also make this sauce year-round with a 28 oz. can of peeled tomatoes.
I substitute butter with Earth Balance, a personal preference, and use 3 or 4 tablespoons instead of 5. The butter neutralizes the acidity in the tomatoes, bringing out their sweet flavor, and 3 – 4 T seems like plenty.
Step 1: Boil water in a small saucepan- a 1.5 or 2 quart saucepan will do. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, score an “X” on the bottom (non-stem side) with a sharp knife. Once the water is ready, slip several tomatoes into the saucepan with a slotted spoon. Let them boil away for 3-5 minutes. They’re ready when the skin at the scoring starts to peel away. Scoop out with the slotted spoon, and repeat.
When the tomatoes cool enough so you can comfortably handle them, peel the skins by hand and cut out the stem area.
Step 2: Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them back to the saucepan with the butter, onion, salt and pepper, and finely chopped chile peppers if you are using them. Simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, until thickened. Stir occasionally and mash the tomatoes against the wall of the saucepan to break them up.
Step 3: Remove the onion (save it for another meal), toss the sauce with pasta of your choice, and sprinkle some parmigian cheese.
This recipe was in Marcella Hazan’s first book, “Classic Italian Cooking,” and is included in her current title “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.”
Cooking at home and brown-bagging lunch most of the time is how we control the amount of salt, kind of oil, quality of animal or fish, and volume of vegetables in our diet. It just feels better and it’s a habit worth trying to see how you feel. Then, if you want to indulge it won’t be such a big deal but instead a treat or reward for good behavior!
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