Yield
Serves 6 to 8 as a first course, 4 to 6 as a main dish; sauce enough for 1 pound of pasta
Never seed tomatoes for this or any other sauce. Much of the tomatoes flavor is contained in its center, in the pulp and gel that surround seeds and even possibly the seeds themselves. The flavor difference is dramatic.
 
So fresh tasting and yet deep and complex, this is ideal for freezing or canning, since the recipe requires the least work of all cooked tomato sauces. With this technique, everything — tomatoes, olive oil and seasonings — goes into the pot more or less at once, usually with no pre sauté, and simmers until thick. Instead of the distinctively layered tastes of sauté-based sauces, the simmered sauce is softer, more tomatoey and mellow.
 
Use it for all kinds of dishes from pasta and pizza to pot roast, soup and polenta. Its seasonings and the proportions of ingredients vary from house to house, but the technique rarely changes.
 
Cook to Cook: It is essential to cook this sauce in a 4-quart saucepan to strike the proper balance between intensifying flavors by reduction and cooking off moisture slowly enough for all the sauce's flavor elements to fully ripen.
 
When increasing quantities, use a pot with the same proportions between cooking surface and pan height.
 
Italian cooks make this sauce with unpeeled fresh tomatoes or canned ones, passing it through a food mill once it's cooked.
 
My preference is for a more rustic juicy sauce with bits of tomato, so I roughly chop it in a blender or food processor. Only if the fresh tomatoes' peels are tough or bitter do I peel them. This is a matter of personal choice.
 
Ingredients
  • 5 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 12 large fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 -1/2 pounds mixed ripe delicious tomatoes (never Romas of any kind), cored and possibly peeled (do not seed), or 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1 pound modest-sized maccheroni, such as gemelli, strozzapretti, casareccia, zita, or penne, or substantial string pastas, such as perciatelli, spaghetti, linguine, or bucatini
  • 6 quarts boiling salted water
  • 1 -1/2 to 2 cups (6 to 8 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)
Instructions
 
1. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the garlic, basil, onion, salt and pepper, and oil. Heat over medium-high heat 30 seconds, no more. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands as they go into the pan. Bring to a lively bubble, uncovered, and cook 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and reduced by half. Stir often, watching for sticking or scorching. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand 15 minutes. Then taste for seasoning.
 
2. If desired, pass the sauce through a food mill or chop it in a blender or food processor until in small pieces. If desired, the sauce can be cooled and refrigerated up to 4 days, or frozen up to 6 months.
 
3. Cook the pasta in fiercely boiling water, stirring often, until tender yet firm to the bite. Drain, toss with the reheated sauce, and serve immediately. Grated cheese is an option.