Quick easy tomato sauce
Throughout southern Italy, the quick tomato sauce is simply known as Sugo di Pomodoro. The sauce, depending on the region, originated from the sea and farming regions of southern Italy. Legend has it, that when women saw the masts of fishing boats pulling into the harbor or the men returning from the fields, they started the sauce. By the time the men arrived home and cleaned up, dinner was ready.
There are some regional differences. Some use only garlic or onions. Some use both.
The sauce was made from ingredients at hand.
There is one truth. You should not be able to taste the garlic or onion. It is tomato sauce, not tomato onion or tomato garlic sauce. All the ingredients should enhance the flavor of the tomatoes. The same holds true for herbs.
Taste your tomato product before using. Some are rather bland, calling for acid, like lemon juice. Others may be too tart and a small amount of sugar should be added. This is dependent of the ripeness of the tomatoes before canning or the way they are processed.
Cooking is part chemistry. Alcohol is a solvent. There are flavor compounds in tomatoes that can only be released when dissolved with alcohol. Adding the optional wine releases these compounds, bringing out more flavor. An ounce of vodka will do the same thing.
There is a chemical compound in nutmeg that enhances the flavor of tomatoes. You only need a pinch. You will not and should not taste the nutmeg.
This sauce is for one pound of pasta.
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small onion diced fine
1 small shallot diced fine (optional)
3 cloves garlic fine minced*
1-2 bay leaves, dry or fresh
Two finger pinch of dried oregano- preferably Greek or Mexican. Crush in palm of the hand.
1- dried hot red pepper, split or a small pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 can tomato paste
1 28 oz. can tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, or whole tomatoes**
1- pound shaped pasta or spaghetti
Fresh ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
About a handful of fresh parsley, finely minced
A small bunch of basil leaves chiffonade for garnish
Grated or shaved Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, or Grana Padano cheese for garnish
Boil six quarts of water with a hefty five finger pinch of salt- about a tablespoon.
While the water boils, place oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the bay leave and hot pepper, if using. Let them warm for about one or two minutes.
Saute the onion and shallot for about one minute. Add the garlic. Season with a small pinch of salt and some black pepper.
Saute until all are translucent. Control the heat, as they should have no color.
Add the tomato paste, stirring for a minute or two. Add the nutmeg, if using.
Add the canned tomato product plus one cup of water, vegetable, or chicken stock. If using wine, cut water or stock by one-half.
Cook on medium until the sauce comes to a boil. Lower heat to simmer or your stove’s lowest setting.
Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes. Add parsley and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.
Remove bay leave and whole hot pepper (if using).
Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente.
Drain pasta. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add the sauce. Mix thoroughly and serve.
If your saucepan is large enough, you can undercook the pasta by one minute, drain, and add it to the sauce, mixing thoroughly for one minute.
Plate. Garnish with the cheese and basil. You can add a few drops of good extra virgin olive oil for garnish.
*If you or people you cook for, do not like eating garlic, crush the cloves, cook the sauce, and remove them before serving.
**If using canned whole tomatoes, crush them by hand before using. Since the tomatoes and cans contain more water, use less water or stock.
There are ways to enhance this sauce:
You can add one mashed anchovy filet or a few drops of fish sauce while it cooks.
For more flavor, you can saute green peppers with the onion and garlic.
For texture and more flavor, you can add a cup of pitted Kalamata olives and or a tablespoon of capers.
Before serving, off the heat, you can stir one or two tablespoons of room temperature butter into the sauce until melted and incorporated.
To make a meat sauce, brown one pound of ground beef, mild Italian sausage, or a half and half mixture of the two. Add the meat to the onions, garlic, and tomato paste. Add the rest of the ingredients. If using stock, you can add beef stock. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.