” Red or White?”…..(sauce).
Sorry I tricked you. Don’t worry wine is also on the way with dinner!
Everyone needs a good tomato sauce in their repertoire. Something that can be altered an used for a variety of dishes. I have posted an Italian style red sauce here because I think that’s what I use most often. Below there are some suggestions on how to alter this sauce recipe with different spices or ingredients to change the style.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cans of good quality tomatoes
- 1 lg onion, chopped (md)
- 1 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 (secret) carrot, chopped (fine)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 red pepper, chopped (md)
- 1/2 cup drinkable red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- 1 tsp dry basil
- * 1 tsp chili flakes (I like Korean chili flakes)- optional
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tomato can of water
1) Heat olive oil in a large pot to a md heat. Add onions, salt and carrot. Patience grasshopper. You must now wait for the onions to transform. They should not sear, if they are browning on the edges turn the heat down a few notches. You want a steady md/low heat. Let them sweat out all their juices and slowly change from opaque to translucent, then from translucent to golden. This takes at least 20-30 minutes. We will add some things in step 2 just before this stage is complete.
Also you are wondering why there is a carrot in there? “Carrots are for rabbits not sauce silly”. “Yes but they are sweet” is my reply, “and I would like to add the sweetness to the sauce to help balance the acidity of the tomatoes”. You could put said carrot in with the peppers in the next step, but I don’t need anyone to know there is carrot so cooking it down,down down the rabbit hole (longer) it becomes a secret.
2) When you have almost achieved such a glorious golden result add the red pepper and the garlic for a few min, and then wait another 5/10 min for the onions to do their magic. When it’s time add tomatoes, wine, spices, and water. I add the water just because I am cooking the sauce down so long. I don’t want it to get too thick during that time. I like to use whole tomatoes because generally I think they have better flavour but use what you have. I so happened to have diced this time (a shopping accident) but it’s all good. The most important is the quality. Not all canned tomatoes are created equal. Most grocery store brands are o.k but not great. Find a good brand as the outcome of your sauce will be worlds better if the tomatoes started off as being great. San Marzano is a good go to variety of tomatoes of you aren’t sure. I also like the organic Kirkland brand whole tomatoes from Costco.
Also a note about korean chili flakes: they have a really nice full more sophisticated flavour, and are slightly milder in heat. I use them in all types of cooking.
3) On a md/low heat keep your sauce at a simmer for a few hours until it cooks down and the colour of the tomatoes has changed shades and a thicker consistency, like this (I should’ve taken a better pic, steam got in the way but you get the idea):
Plain: Omit basil and oregano. This is useful if you want to make a big batch of neutral sauce to use as a base for another dish or sauce. Keep the Bay leaf and chili as I think it goes with every style you might make.
Veggie “bolognese”: Soak 1 cup of dry t.v.p (textured vegetable protein) in 2 cups of hot water for about 20 min. Add in step 2 with the pepper and garlic.
Greek: Keep everything the same but add 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp dry mint
Arrabiata (spicy!): add 1-2 chopped fresh red chilis in stage 2, or 1 tbsp of chili flakes instead of a tsp of dried.
Tex Mex: For most Mexican/TexMex dishes I make salsas for each dish a little differently, so I normally wouldn’t use this method. But if you wanted you could for like a Tex Mex style lasagna or something? Remove Basil and oregano, add 1 tbsp cumin powder, 1 tsp mexican oregano, and 2-3 tbsp of a pure dry mexican chili (powder) like ancho, chipotle,arbol or a combination. You could also use prepared chili powder.
Again normally for other dishes like curries and stews I usually build a separate sauce while making the dish but you could do Moroccan, varieties of Indian tomato curry gravies, Spanish, the possibilities are endless!