Salsa di Pomodoro
Category: Basic Recipes and Sauces
The tomato, which is thought to originate in Peru, did not reach Italy until the first half of the sixteenth century and, in fact, did not become ubiquitous in Italian cooking until the early twentieth century. In the Mediterranean, the tomato spent all those centuries as an ornamental plant for gardens. This is a basic tomato sauce that can be used whenever a recipe calls for tomato sauce. Italian families don’t freeze as much as Americans and are rather likely to preserve their tomato sauce in jars or bottles and use it throughout the winter to dress spaghetti or make more complex ragouts. Normally, I make three times the amount called for in this recipe. Although fresh, ripe-ripened tomatoes are best, canned whole or crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato puree are fine to use when tomatoes are not in season--just not the canned “tomato sauce.” Cooks seem to make a simple tomato sauce in two ways, with onions or without and with chopped garlic or whole. It’s your choice.
Yield: Makes 3 cups
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or lightly crushed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion (optional), finely chopped
2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half, seeded squeezed out, and grated against the largest holes of a standing grater down to the peel
6 large fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon dried oregano (optional)
1. In a flame-proof casserole or deep saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the chopped garlic until it begins to sizzle in less than a minute, or, if using whole garlic, until it begins to turn light brown, about 1 minute. Remove and discard the whole garlic and add the onion, but leave the chopped garlic. Cook the onion until translucent, stirring frequently, 5 to 6 minutes, if using. Add the tomatoes, basil, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until dense, 15 to 25 minutes, uncovered, reducing the heat if it is sputtering too much. Stir occasionally with a long wooden spoon so the bottom doesn’t burn and add small amounts of water if necessary.
2. When the sauce is finished, turn the heat off, add the oregano, if using, and let it steep for 10 minutes before using or storing.