Making a big batch of this sauce at the end of tomato season will never serve you wrong. It's so fresh and plus what is better than being able to tell your friends and family that the sauce they are eating is homemade as opposed to the typical store-bought canned sauce? Yeah, I couldn’t think of anything either.
I don’t know about you, but growing up, all of my favorite dishes were pasta dishes and most of them were served with a traditional tomato sauce. Whether it was Spaghetti and Meatballs or Chicken Parmesan as a kid, or Zuppa di Mare and Bucatini all’Amatriciana as I got older, the memories of having a pasta dish paired with a hearty and flavorful tomato sauce always stuck.
While I will admit, most of the time (pretty much every time) the dishes I was eating were made using canned, store-bought tomato sauce, I still loved them. It wasn’t until I started cooking professionally that I found out how easy it was to make my own sauce.
By now everyone knows that a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable, but what many people do not know about the tomato is that tomatoes were originally indiginous to South and Central America, not Europe. In the US, when people hear tomato sauce, bruschetta, or tomato salad, they naturally think about Italy and Italian Cuisine.
The truth is that the Aztecs and other Native Americans throughout South and Central America were domesticating tomatoes dating back to 500 BC. It was not until the 16th Century, with the Spanish Explorers, that the tomato was brought to Europe. From Spain, the tomato was distributed throughout Europe and became a regional favorite. The tomato's ability to adapt and evolve to its surroundings made it perfect for the various geographical locations and habitats present in Europe. This led to regional-specific tomatoes such as the Beefsteak (British/American), the Black Krim (Russia), San Marzano (Italy), the Monterosa (Spain) and many more.
Making a good tomato sauce is fairly simple by putting all the ingredients into a pot, gently simmering them for 3-4 hours, and pureeing until smooth. You could even use canned tomatoes, which some may argue is even better! However, you'll find that perfecting your own tomato sauce requires various tries! Learn what you like and adjust the next time.
When I started making a basic tomato sauce, I found myself always wanting to make it better time after time so I began doing research on traditional techniques and messing around with adding different ingredients. I read and tried everyone’s recipe from Mario Batali to Massimo Bottura. As I was reading and experimenting, I began to notice that the key to truly developing the flavor of the sauce was in cooking the ingredients low and slow, before adding the liquid.
That allows the ingredients to caramelize all the sugars. This step, which is referred to in many cuisines as the Soffritto, or Sofrito, is the step/technique in which you slowly cook cut vegetables and spices in olive oil to extract the flavors and caramelize the sugars. After cooking, you add tomato paste and continue to cook on a low heat, building “fond”, or tiny bits of food that stick to the bottom of the pot and begin to caramelize, before deglazing with wine and scraping off the bottom of the pot with a Wooden Spoon. The “fond” is important because it develops the foundation for the sauce and helps give it that deep “richness” that seems to be present in all hearty stews and braises.
Next time you're making a pasta dish definitely try to make your own pasta sauce! Use this recipe as a base and adjust to your liking. The great thing abou tomato sauces is that they should reflect one's personal preferences.
Cheers and eat well!
This Italian-American Classic is a staple in all households and can serve as the base to hundreds of entrees, pastas, soups, and sides. This sauce can be used in everything from Spaghetti to Cioppino, to its very own creamy tomato bisque.
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