This requires the least work of all the cooked tomato sauces. With this technique, everything tomatoes, olive oil and seasonings goes into the pot more or less at once, usually with no presaute and simmers until thick. Instead of the distinctively layered tastes of saute-based sauces, the simmered sauce is softer, more tomatoey and mellow.
Every summer, in country kitchens and city apartments, this and similar sauces are put up in jars or frozen, ready 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.
A farmwoman I met at a weekly market in Umbria insisted that before adding the tomatoes you must warm all the seasonings in the oil for just one minute, never longer. Her version is so good, I haven’t fiddled with her technique.
Cook to Cook: 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.
Wine Suggestion: A Sangiovese di Romagna or a Chianti Classico, not Riserva
5 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
12 large fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 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, 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 pasta, 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)
1. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the garlic, basil, onion, salt and pepper, and oil. Heat over medium-high heat 1 minute, 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.
2. 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 2 days, or frozen up to 3 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.
Adapted from The Italian Country Table, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
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