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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Classic Italian Tomato Sauce

By special request of my friend Dena, I give you my family recipe.  Now, in my house we grew up using homemade canned tomatoes.  However, in today's day and age of both parents working, clearly most people do not have the time.  So, instead of homemade canned tomatoes, I have converted the recipe to allow for a purchased canned tomato, but it is still very good.  The key to buying the canned tomato to use is to use what is called a tomato "sauce"--NOT A PREMADE SAUCE.  There are a number of very good Italian brands, but believe it or not, Hunt's makes a very good one too!    What I look for is a brand that has nothing but the tomatoes and low sodium.  I stay away from any brand that has added onion powder, bell peppers or any ingredients that will alter the taste of your sauce.  I hope that you enjoy it. 

Italian Tomato Sauce

1 Medium Yellow Onion diced
2 Garlic Cloves Crushed  (use a garlic crusher or garlic grater for correct consistency)
3/4 Tblspn. Salt
1 Tblspn. Black Pepper
1/4 Tspn. Red Pepper Flakes  (In a sauce this large, it will not result in a hot sauce.  It simply adds flavor in the background)
2 Tblspn. Dried Parsley
1 Tblspn. Dried Basil
1 Tspn. Dried Oregano
1 Large Dried Bay Leaf
4 Large Fresh Basil Leaves roughly torn
4 Tblspn. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Cans Tomato Sauce (see note above) 13 oz. each
3 Cans Tomato Paste (6 oz. each)
1/2 Cup Dry Red Cooking Wine
1/2 Cup Water

Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat.  Add the diced Onions and Crushed Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes stirring frequently until onions begin to sweat.  BE CAREFUL NOT TO BURN THE GARLIC OR THIS WILL MAKE THE SAUCE BITTER.  Add Tomato Paste, water, and red wine and stir to incorporate.  Stir frequently to avoid sticking.  Add dried parsley, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Let paste cook at a low boil for 10 minutes stirring constantly to avoid sticking.  Add Tomato Sauce and stir to incorporate paste mixture.  Bring to a boil.  Add the Bay Leaf and fresh basil.  Cook at a low boil for approximately 1 hour stirring occasionally to ensure that the sauce is not sticking.  Taste after 1 hour to determine if any further seasoning is necessary.  If so, add herbs and seasonings to taste.  Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 3 additional hours.

Note:  My mom used to add the dried herbs with the onion and garlic to the olive oil prior to adding the paste.  I too used to do this.  However, I found that it was very easy to burn the herbs and then it looked like dark flecks in the sauce.  I avoid this by adding the herbs with the paste.

Additionally, if you want a meat sauce.  Add the meatballs, sausage, pork or meat of your choice to the sauce.  I do not cook the meat in the sauce.  I prefer to make the meat separately and then add it to the sauce.  Keep in mind that you should add the meat early in the cooking process to maximize the flavor.

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