Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Classic Italian Pasta Sauce Recipe

As I mentioned in a previous post Buy in Bulk, I like to make my own Italian Tomato Sauce. I’ll share my recipe with you and you’ll be surprised how simple it is to make. The key reasons I love to make this sauce are:
  • It’s absolutely delizioso (delicious)
  • It’s easy
  • It’s cheap and great value
  • I can make it in bulk and I can portion it and freeze it
  • It’s fairly quick to make
  • Fairly low in fat (except for the garlic bread, substitute for low fat butter)

OK, here are the ingredients you need to purchase beforehand:
  • 10 large ripe tomatoes or the equivalent in canned tomatoes
  • 1 large white onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic (we’ll make some garlic bread as well)
  • Tablespoon of olive oil / cooking oil
  • Salt and Pepper or Chilli
  • Packet of Pasta enough for your family
  • Freezable containers that can hold a family portion of sauce
  • Butter/Margarine
  • Bread roll suitable to feed your family and can be sliced too make garlic bread.
  • Aluminium foil to wrap the garlic bread and place in the oven
  • Parmesan cheese
  • A few leaves of basil

You’ll need a large deep pan to cook the sauce, a chopping board and an electric blender. Take the butter or margarine out of the fridge and leave it on your kitchen bench out of the way. Pick the ripest tomatoes you can find at your green grocer as they’re best for pasta sauce and usually cheaper because they’re close to expiry. Wash and with a knife remove where the stem attaches to the tomato. Cut them into quarters and place in the blender.

You don’t have to de-seed because the blender will blitz it to a liquid. If you have a hand blender it’s probably easier to wait until the tomatoes have been cooking in the pot for 10 to 15 minutes. Whilst blending you can season the sauce in the blender or wait until it’s all in the pot.

Clean and cut up the onion and chop into small cubes. OK, put the pot on the stove and place flame on a medium. Add the heaped tablespoon of oil in the pot and throw in the onions. Simmer the onions until lightly brown. If you’re unsure with the heat start on low and increase as required. Stir regularly. You should have at least 5 minutes so you can prepare the garlic. Take 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, peel and chop finely.

As soon as you see the onion going translucent or beginning to brown put in the chopped garlic and saute until lightly brown. Pour in the liquid tomatoes and turn up the heat to high. Add salt and pepper (and/or chilli) to taste. The sauce will require good seasoning to bring out the flavor. Stir well. Coarsely chop up a few basil leaves and throw them in the pot. You can taste the flavor when the sauce has cooked as opposed to simply heated – it’s a different taste.

Wait until the sauce has come to the boil and reduce the heating to a simmer – just bubbling along gently. Cook the sauce for approximately 45 minutes and stir regularly every 5 to 10 minutes to ensure the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. After 20 minutes check for taste and add additional seasoning if necessary. If the sauce is very thick add some water. Now get a large pot, add water and a good dash of salt and put on high heat to boil. Put the lid to boil more quickly.

Now we start the garlic bread. On a chopping board place the long thin roll and make cuts about half an inch from the bottom so the roll still holds together. Take the remaining garlic, peel and chop finely. Take the butter which has been softening and put about 4 to 5 tablespoons into a cup (however much you think you need to butter the bread). If the butter is still not soft enough, warm up the cup with some hot water or place the cup with the butter in the microwave for about 5 to 10 secs. Crush the garlic with the side of a large knife and chop it finely. Add the garlic to the butter an half a teaspoon of salt. Mix it up really well till it becomes spreadable.

Take the bread role you have sliced and using a knife pry apart each slice and liberally spread the garlic butter. Wrap in foil and throw in the oven (make sure you turn it on :). If the water has boiled put in the pasta and stir regularly until the water comes back to the boil. Read the instruction on the packet however it should only take to 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure you taste the pasta so it doesn’t over or under cook. By this time your sauce is probably close to ready.

Once your pasta is ready, drain off the water in a colander and then put back in the pot. Take a cup of sauce and mix it through the pasta to keep it from drying out.

Set the table, serve the pasta with some additional sauce and serve the garlic bread. Voila ! What a great meal. At the end of dinner, the sauce would have cooled enough for you to store in your freezable containers – put enough in each container for another meal.

Emergency Tips

If you’re cooking and you’re distracted by the kids, husband, phone etc and you burn the bottom of the sauce don’t panic. Take it off the heat immediately. Grab another pot and pour in the sauce. Most of the burnt sauce usually stays at the bottom of the cooking pot.

If you have over seasoned the sauce, simply don’t add any salt to the pasta. It will balance out. You just need to remember that until you use the remainder of the sauce you have frozen.

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