I say it so often here that I should not have been surprised by this. The best food of all is that which hasn't been messed with too much, but which is a simple combining of good quality, great tasting ingredients. Yet, I was still shocked at how blindlingly good this simple tomato pasta sauce tasted.
In my effort to keep up with my massive tomato crop I've been telling you about, making some tomato ketchup seemed like an option. "But why?" inquired the other mouth that I feed. He is of the opinion that nobody could do a better job of it than Watties, and a sauce that actually tastes of ... well, tomatoes ... instead of preservatives and other things you can't pronounce, would just be too much of a shock to his tastebuds. In fairness, he's come a long way and appreciates great food when it's given to him. But there are some things he will always consider to be vaguely inferior when made at home - namely, tomato sauce, ice cream, and bread. Still, I'm convinced that if I can come up with a good tomato sauce, and sneak it into the Watties bottle when he's not looking, then I have a pretty fair chance of passing it off as the "real deal". Keep watching this space!
In the meantime, I decided a batch of tomato pasta sauce would take care of a few tomatoes, and would never go astray around our house. Of course, when looking for a good sauce recipe, the first place I turned to was the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Marcella is the high priestess of Italian cooking, as far as I'm concerned, and this book is like my bible when it comes to Italian food. Trust me when I tell you that, if you have no other Italian cookbook in your collection it should be this one.
When I found Marcella's recipe for Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, my initial reaction was that I could "trick it up a little" by adding in some garlic, maybe some roasted red peppers, maybe some chilli flakes for a bit of kick, a bit of freshly ground black pepper even. And then I decided to just allow Marcella's wisdom to prevail and stick with the recipe (a rare thing for me), and am I ever glad that I did just that.
This sauce consists of nothing more than tomatoes, an onion, a little butter, and a sprinkling of salt - that's it, nothing more. The onion is simply cut in half and then discarded at the end of the cooking time, rather than diced into the sauce, so it serves to ever so delicately "fragrance" the sauce rather than overpowering it. The flavour is wonderfully sweet and so intensely "tomatoe-y" that it's almost shocking. This sauce is as intensely flavoured as any I've ever tasted, and yet it maintains a freshness and purity of flavour that is a sheer delight. Think of the flavour of a freshly picked tomato, still warm from the sun, sliced thickly and set on top of freshly buttered toast, and you have pretty much exactly that in sauce form.
We enjoyed this tossed through some pappardelle with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan. Marcella also recommends it as being a great accompaniment to gnocchi. I hope you'll give it a try. For best results use sun-grown fresh tomatoes, picked at the perfect stage of ripeness - out of season, hot-house grown tomatoes, picked early and ripened in the supermarket chiller, just won't cut it. Marcella says you can also used tinned tomatoes.
Best Tomato Pasta Sauce Ever Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Marcella Hazan
Makes enough for four servings of pasta
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
1 kg (2x pounds) tomatoes
100g (3.5 oz) butter
flaky sea salt
Peel tomatoes and discard the skins.
Remove and discard any woody cores from the tomatoes and roughly chop the flesh. Cut the onion in half. Put tomatoes, onion, butter, and a generous pinch of sea salt into a large saucepan.
Simmer uncovered very gently, stirring from time to time, and mashing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, until the tomatoes have completely broken down and the sauce is reduced and thick - about 45 minutes.
Discard the onion, and immediately toss through pasta, or cool completely and freeze for later use.
I'm sharing this post at See Ya In the Gumbo, hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace; at Foodie Friday, hosted by Designs by Gollum; and at My Meatless Mondays hosted by Chaya at My Sweet and Savory.