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An incredibly luscious tomato sauce

rose water Oct 29, 2006 04:22 PM

I've been watching the Cookbook of the Month goings on from the sidelines, and saw raves for Marcella Hazan's tomato, onion, and butter sauce: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

I made this sauce last night, and it's is incredibly good. Spoon, plate, bowl, pan-licking good. Just ask my partner, who is much more restrained that I am, who was caught in the act of licking her plate clean.

To quote Hazan herself "This is the simplest of all sauces to make, and none has a purer, more irresistably sweet tomato taste. I have known people to skip the pasta and eat the sauce directly out of the pot with a spoon." She's right.

This is really not a great picture, and doesn't do it justice, but for what it's worth:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rose_wat...
Just imagine rich, sweet, buttery, intensely tomato-y goodness as you look.

(For the NY based hounds, the pasta is cavatelli from the beloved Borgatti's in the Bronx: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... . Their pasta has such great flavor and texture, and was lovely here).

2 cups canned tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
5 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, peeled, cut in half
salt

Add all of the above, cook uncovered at a slow simmer for 45 minutes or "until the fat floats free of the tomato."

She instructs you to discard the onion before serving, but it tastes lovely, and I wonder what else can be done with it (besides, well, licking all the sauce off). I topped with some minced parsley and grated parmesan.

So, I challenge you. Do you have any tomato sauces that surpass this in richness and simplicity? I don't know about 5 tbsp of butter becoming a regular thing, so if you have alternatives, please share them here!

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  1. g
    garlicer RE: rose water Oct 29, 2006 07:54 PM

    I have a recipe that is similar to Marcella’s, it’s from Jeff Smith, aka The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian, the recipe is called Fresh Tomato Sauce Sicilian. I used to follow the recipe to the letter and could never make it perfect every time. One day a friend brought over Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan and things changed in my kitchen for the better. Although the Frug’s’ recipe is still a great one, it wasn’t until I read Marcella’s’ “where flavour starts” and the following battuto, soffritto and insaporire that I began to understand the importance in the “basics” of Italian cooking. Now I apply Marcella’s techniques and have consistent results every time. I use fresh herbs from my garden and use only the best canned Italian plum tomatoes for best results. The Italian canned tomatoes are sweet and yield a very rich and thick sauce. Read the label for exact origin of the tomatoes and steer away from enhanced (i.e.) added salt, sodium, calcium, citrus, or herbed content, always go with one ingredient, plum tomatoes from Italy. Fresh tomatoes can be a challenge because they are not always sweet and tasty when cooked so canned works best. When I stopped using fresh tomatoes, in tandem with Marcellas' techniques my sauces came out perfect every time.
    As for the butter, well, you can leave it out but the sauce will not be as sweet and rich in flavour. The Sicilian Sauce I spoke of earlier calls for 6 Tbs of butter. I’d be happy to share my version of the ‘Frug’s ‘ Tomato Sauce Sicilian as it is very similar to Marcella’s but has a few more ingredients, but still simple and very tasty.

    1. k
      Kelli2006 RE: rose water Oct 29, 2006 08:30 PM

      1 or 1 1/2 cup chopped onion (onions add sweetness, and you can add more if you like a sweeter sauce)
      1/2 cup chopped peeled carrot
      1/2 cup chopped celery (or bulb fennel in season)
      2 Tbls garlic (approx 5 cloves)
      olive oil to sweat the aromatics
      2 Tsp of fennel seed(if using celery)
      1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste (I like more)
      4 bay leaves
      3x 28oz cans of chopped tomatoes
      1 6oz can of tomato paste
      2 cups red table wine
      2 tsp of Italian seasoning, or a mixture of oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary,
      salt and pepper to taste

      add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic in 1 gallon saucepan and sweat with the olive oil till translucent.
      add tomatoes, bay leaves, hot pepper flakes, fennel seed and tomato paste and wine.
      Bring to a low boil, reduce temp and simmer for 3-4 hour, but the longer the better.

      Remove bay leaves, and puree mixture with a stick blender, add herbs and correct salt and pepper seasoning.

      After pureeing you can add peppers, mushrooms or other vegetables that you desire.

      Garnish with parsley and serve over pasta or freeze.

      1. Karl S RE: rose water Oct 29, 2006 08:42 PM

        As I've noted before many times, I usually serve that Marcella sauce as a soup. Even people who dislike tomato soup love that one.

        1. MMRuth RE: rose water Oct 29, 2006 08:46 PM

          One of my favorite of her sauces - I love to add basil and diced mozzarella with the pasta.

          1. Carb Lover RE: rose water Oct 29, 2006 09:32 PM

            That sauce is truly divine. I've made it a few times now, and I still am stunned at how something so simple could be so delicious. The post that you link has me asking about variations, but I can see why Karl was so adamant about no need for that. It is perfect just the way it was intended...I have cut down the butter just a tad (like 3-4 TB) and find it just as satisfying.

            I love all of the simple tomato sauces that I've tried. The latest was her tomato sauce w/ heavy cream which was delicious, although I probably favor the onion one if forced to choose.

            Here's a photo:
            http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

            4 Replies
            1. re: Carb Lover
              rose water RE: Carb Lover Oct 29, 2006 11:13 PM

              Wow, that picture looks incredible. Is that with food milled fresh tomatoes?

              I think I used less than 5 tbsp of butter as well (wasn't measuring, but I'd guess it was about 4), and it was still incredibly rich.

              But the beauty of this recipe is its intense rich, sweet flavor despite its utter simplicity. Using canned tomatoes, I'd say there was 5 minutes of active prep time, max.

              1. re: rose water
                Carb Lover RE: rose water Oct 30, 2006 01:52 AM

                Yes, fresh San Marzano tomatoes using her food mill method. The version w/ cream calls for 3 TB each of minced onion, celery, and carrot, but they just melt into the sauce. Also calls for about 1/3 c. butter and 1/2 c. of cream, but I reduced the amounts of each just a touch. What was amazing about this sauce was that it had the lusciousness and meatiness of a bolognese w/ no meat.

                When I make these sauces in the winter, I'll be sure to use the San Marzano canned tomatoes.

                1. re: Carb Lover
                  n
                  niki rothman RE: Carb Lover Oct 30, 2006 03:03 PM

                  Trader Joe's canned whole plum tomatoes with salt and basil are rich, sweet, and wonderful. And I think 99 cents for the 32 ounce size.

              2. re: Carb Lover
                Karl S RE: Carb Lover Oct 30, 2006 01:01 PM

                The amount of butter is not really that much per portion of to coat 3 oz of dry pasta. And it is certainly lower in calories than an equivalent amount of olive oil (5T of oil would be 600 calories per pot; 5T of butter is 500 calories per pot); moreover, olive oil could not duplicate the effect of butter in the recipe.

              3. blue room RE: rose water Oct 29, 2006 11:18 PM

                With such a simple recipe, I'm sure the brand of canned tomato is very important--can you name a good one? Thanks!

                2 Replies
                1. re: blue room
                  rose water RE: blue room Oct 30, 2006 12:27 AM

                  Hazan is specific on this point, and calls for imported Italian plum tomatoes. (Or fresh tomatoes, cut lengthwise, cooked for 10 minutes, then run through a food mill). I used a can of plain old, available-in-my-cabinets, non-imported, non-Italian tomatoes, and it was completely transformed through magical Hazan-ian alchemy.

                  1. re: blue room
                    sfumato RE: blue room Apr 26, 2008 04:38 PM

                    Hazan recommends San Marzano tomatoes specifically.

                    Here's another picture of this sauce recipe: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lapetite...

                  2. n
                    niki rothman RE: rose water Oct 30, 2006 12:22 AM

                    I'm extrememly fond of my own very simple tomato sauce. Process a 32 oz. can of TJ's plum tomatoes or canned Italian plum tomatoes (San Marzano). In a large pot fry 1 minced large onion, large pinch dry red pep. flakes, and 4 cloves minced garlic until barely colored in 2T good olive oil. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 tsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt (adjust salt & sugar to your taste), and 2T butter. Simmer 20 minutes.

                    1. k
                      kittyfood RE: rose water Oct 30, 2006 12:05 PM

                      I am not a tomato sauce fan, but I do like Marcella's simple version. My cooking buddy, who grew up in an Italian-German family in Argentina, referred to it as "the simple tomato sauce your mother always made." I told her maybe her mother made it like this, but not mine, and I am envious!

                      Sarah C

                      1. s
                        Smileelisa RE: rose water May 8, 2008 08:28 AM

                        Your recipe sounds delish! I am always on the lookout for new tomato sauce recipe's. I am gonna give this one a try very soon. I am not sure what kind of tomatoes I will be able to use as our stores don't carry San Marzano's tomatoes for some reason. I keep checking everytime I go.

                        1. Gooseberry RE: rose water May 8, 2008 09:02 AM

                          I feel sheepish for admitting it, but..

                          I like, don't love, Marcella's recipe. I think it's a great vehicle for spaghetti bolognese, but I rarely make it to eat as is, with pasta.

                          What I have been doing lately is roasting halved, peeled tomatoes with slivers of garlic and a good glug of olive oil, at about 200C/400F for 20-30 minutes, then sticking it all in a sterilized jar in my fridge. It's soft and mushable, but still has a rough texture. Then I a spoonful in lots of recipes, put a couple mushy half-tomatoes on steak sandwiches, etc. And for pasta sauce, I just blitz the stuff to a chunky puree. I find the flavour to be more than a sum of its parts; richly tomatoey with a strongly caramelized, deep flavour. THAT I'll lick directly out of the bowl.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Gooseberry
                            MMRuth RE: Gooseberry May 8, 2008 09:05 AM

                            What do you mean that it's a great vehicle for spaghetti bolognese?

                          2. The Dairy Queen RE: rose water May 8, 2008 09:49 AM

                            I'm so inspired to try this. It sounds so delicious, the way you describe it. (Plate licking good--how can you beat that?)

                            ~TDQ

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              MMRuth RE: The Dairy Queen May 8, 2008 09:55 AM

                              I just had it for dinner last night - luscious.

                              1. re: MMRuth
                                Gio RE: MMRuth May 8, 2008 10:35 AM

                                This is too funny! Did we All have pasta last night? We did.
                                Love the idea of the "mushy" tomatoes....I've been roasting/oven drying tomatoes for a few weeks now, so this is something I will definitely try ASAP.

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