Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Basics: 20 Minute Tomato Sauce

I've said before that there are recipes I go back to again and again, classic family dishes that I can make almost without thinking about them. Like fruit crisp or carbonara. Not that they're perfect, or the quintessential example of the form but, darn it, we like them.

The sofrito.

One is my version of an Italian marinara, or tomato sauce, that I call "20 Minute Tomato Sauce" because it's easy to put together and can be consumed almost immediately over pasta. Or you can simmer it all day and have a rich, textured sauce for pasta or lasagne, or even use it as a braising sauce for pot roast.

Starting to simmer.

This one I made with a pound of spicy Italian sausage thrown in, a favorite with my guys, but it's great with no meat at all. Or if there's some leftover roast in the fridge you can turn it into what we call "Meaty Meat Sauce." It's the beauty of these recipes, really. They're adaptable to what's on hand, easy to pull together and totally delicious.

20 Minute Tomato Sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
3-4 cloves garlic
1 carrot, chopped fine
2 ribs celery, chopped fine
1 1/2 Tbsp. oregano
2 tsp. basil
3/4 tsp. thyme
2 28-oz. cans plum tomatoes, puréed in food processor
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 c. red wine

Sauté onion, garlic, carrot and celery in large Dutch oven (I use my 25-year-old Revereware pan) for about 8 min. or until onion is transparent and carrots are tender. Add spices and stir to warm. Add pureed tomatoes, tomato paste and wine. Simmer as long as you like, from one hour to all day. And, of course, it's terrific the next day or the next week.

Options: Sausage, browned and broken up, as mentioned above. Or, for a little heat, sauté a couple of whole red chiles with the vegetables and remove before serving. This recipe is completely flexible and virtually indestructible, so have at it.

Read more recipes in The Basics series: House Vinaigrette, Chile Sauce, Caesar Salad and Strata.

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