Sunday, February 1, 2009

Staple: Fast Tomato Sauce

This was the first template recipe of Bittman's that I mastered. I call it a template because, like the Five Minute Drizzle Sauce, once you master the technique, you can mix it up in an infinite number of ways. It's a special recipe to me, because even though it's one of the most ordinary meals known to man, if you can master making your own tomato sauce, your kitchen self confidence will see a tenfold boost. At least. Even more than when you make your own stock.

Originally, I made this out of the HTCE spinoff book, How to Cook Everything: Quick Cooking, which is a fantastic sort of training wheels version of the book. Anyway, basically you sautee some onions and garlic in olive oil, throw in some canned tomatoes, let it cook for a while, throw in a bit more olive oil toward the end to thicken it up, and you have a nice simple tomato sauce. It's not gonna change the world, but it takes no longer than reheating a store bought jar and it tastes a lot better.

From there, it's your call. I like mine with some carrot cooked along with the onions and garlic. This makes it a bit sweeter, and if you grate the carrot in the shreds just sort of melt away into the sauce. I also usually add tomato paste after I add the can tomatoes; it makes it a bit thicker and saucier. You like olives? Throw some in. Anything goes, really. In addition to all the improvisation you can come up with, there's a list following the recipe with something like 20 quick spins on the template. They pretty much all look good.

This week I thought I'd play with it beyond my usual two "variations" of grated carrot and tomato paste. I started with adding lemon zest in the sautee phase (though maybe I shoulda done this when I added the tomatoes. Anyway, I added the zest and skipped the tomato paste. Not on purpose. I just forgot. I also put it through the food processor so it was a little smoother and less chunky.

Then towards the end I added some pitted olives and half a jar of capers. The additions made the sauce a lot tangier than usual. It was pretty good; next time I won't omit the tomato paste (I like it thick!) and my olives, which were the mild green kind, were not optimal. Next time, Kalamata or something nice and salty like that.

Maybe the best part is the quantity; there's always some left over and it keeps pretty well in the freezer. So the next time I want tomato sauce, I'll just defrost, add some tomato paste (it's never too late!) and be good to go.
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