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Sauce for Pasta
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Mar 18, 2013, 04:51 PM
 
I could Google, I could test, I could waste time and become frustrated.

So here it is MacNN Forum dwellers, a plea. A plea for a great pasta sauce.

Not the stuff in jars. The stuff you make. Tomato based, preferably fresh although canned tomatoes may have to do during winter. This stuff has to be good without the meat. Good enough to make you want to dip some bread into it while its still cooking. Its gotta go on all sorts of pasta. Its got to impress a mother-in-law.

Enlighten me.
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Mar 18, 2013, 04:57 PM
 
Soylent.
     
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Mar 18, 2013, 04:59 PM
 
Here's the basics:

The flavour profile of a tomato is sweet/acidic. To enhance those flavours, you add a sweetener - I use brown sugar or maple syrup - and an acidic ingredient - I use balsamic vinegar.

What you're trying to do is to boost the natural flavour, not to mask it. If you do this well, you won't be able to taste sugar or the vinegar.

My basic tomato sauce goes like this:

Mince a shallot, saute in olive oil. Add a glove of garlic, also minced. Add one anchovy fillet (don't worry, the flavour will disappear completely) and let it melt into the hot oil. Add your tomatoes - fresh need to be skinned and seeded, canned are fine as they are.

Add sugar and vinegar, let simmer for 30 minutes. Add fresh herbs, basil, parsley just before serving. You're done.

Alternatively take fresh tomatoes, cut in half. Place on baking sheets, cut side up. Sprinkle with kosher salt, fresh thyme, olive oil. Add a couple of cloves of garlic. Roast at 400º for 30 minutes, until soft and blackened around the edges. Skin, seed, puree. (Important, tomato skins and seeds are bitter).

Add sugar, vinegar, bring to simmer, serve.
     
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Mar 18, 2013, 05:23 PM
 
OK, I'll test Sauce Philias, but the sugar aspect worries me. I may be English, but I hate tasting 'sweetness' in what should be a savoury dish.

And mincing is better than slicing? I've heard this before but no idea why.

Interesting what you say about the seeds and skins.
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mattyb  (op)
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Mar 18, 2013, 05:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
Soylent.
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Mar 18, 2013, 05:45 PM
 
You don't add much sugar.

I rarely make sauce, but when I do it's more simplified than Phileas' version. Mainly because I then add sausage and spinach to make lasagna. And I don't stock anchovies.

saute chopped garlic
add:
large can (16oz?) diced tomatoes
8oz can of plain tomato sauce
tiny can of tomato paste (thickens if you like it like that)
simmer, add:
1tbs sugar, pinches of salt, pepper, oregano, basil, cheese, whatever floats your boat.
     
mattyb  (op)
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Mar 18, 2013, 05:49 PM
 
Thats the sort of sauce that I've been making. But I wonder if the tomato paste (same as tomato concentrate I presume) wasn't cheating. I also wondered if there wasn't some 'just do this' trick handed down from a grandmother or two that someone would share.

Cheers and keep 'em coming. Except for Dakar of course.
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Mar 18, 2013, 05:57 PM
 
if it's nice tomato paste (no additives, no flavors) I don't think it's cheating. I also had a roommate who liked to chop sun-dried tomatoes and add to sauce.

Is your MIL Italian?
     
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Mar 18, 2013, 06:03 PM
 
No, French, but she still has to be impressed.
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Mar 18, 2013, 07:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
I use balsamic vinegar.
Last time I cooked pasta sauce (Friday) I used caramelised balsamic. Two birds - one stone.

Here's my idiot-proof (Face Ache tested) recipe:

Step 1. Put Frank Sinatra on your sound system. Volume should be set so it sounds like Frank is singing over your shoulder. Do not skip this step. Do not try to cook pasta sauce to Nine Inch Nails.

Step 2. Throw these ingredients at a pot on low/medium heat:
  • Olive oil.
  • Onion (sauté for a while - you don't want raw onion).
  • Garlic (likewise).
  • Caramelised balsamic vinegar or red wine with a pinch of raw sugar.
  • Grated carrot (adds sweetness anyway).
  • Celery (not too much!)
  • Canned tomatoes (or passata if you're in a hurry).*
  • Basil.
  • A few bay leaves.
  • Oregano.
  • Parsley.
  • Salt/pepper.
  • A little butter to finish (adds gloss and makes sauce more saucy).

Also: Try Grana Padano cheese and say goodbye to supermarket Parmesan.

* You can skin/seed fresh tomatoes, but canned is fine, so why bother unless you're trying to get rid of a shedload of fresh tomatoes.
     
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Mar 18, 2013, 08:03 PM
 
I forgot to say bay leaf! but celery? green pepper sometimes.
     
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Mar 18, 2013, 08:35 PM
 
Celery. Not too much though, I've found, or the whole dish tastes like celery. I got that from The Silver Spoon. The carrot is a natural sweetener and when grated you can sneak it past the kids without their veggie detectors going off.

Can't remember the last time I bought green capsicum (pepper). Sometime around 1997 I think. Red and roasted for me. Sometimes I make my pasta sauce with roasted/skinned red capsicums added too.

There would be a mutiny if my kids had any idea how many vegetables they eat.
     
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Mar 18, 2013, 08:47 PM
 
Originally Posted by mattyb View Post
OK, I'll test Sauce Philias, but the sugar aspect worries me. I may be English, but I hate tasting 'sweetness' in what should be a savoury dish.

And mincing is better than slicing? I've heard this before but no idea why.

Interesting what you say about the seeds and skins.
Sugar is added to cut down the acidity of the sauce, and perhaps to enhance the flavor. It depends what quality of tomatoes you're getting - whether they're of the supermarket variety, or vine ripened from your backyard or a farmer's market. The latter two tend to have a higher sugar content, from being left to grow for longer, and sauce made from them won't be so acidic.

And here's a simple recipe from a scene in The Godfather: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0upM5IqaQQ
     
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Mar 18, 2013, 09:02 PM
 
Phileas' recipe is very much like a former girlfriend of mine used to make. The anchovy enriches it somehow and the sugar really does enhance the flavour (We are talking english tomatoes in this case, if you can get Italian tomatoes, it might be a different story). You should definitely experiment with the sugar. The ex wasn't too sure of that trick when she first heard it but it became a rule soon after trying it out.
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Mar 18, 2013, 09:49 PM
 
You don't taste the sugar, or the vinegar or that matter. All they do is accentuate the natural flavours of the tomatoes. If you taste the sugar, you've used too much.

The anchovy is there to create umami - fulness of flavour. Face's kids might revolt about the amount of veggies they're eating, my household has no idea how many of these slippery little fish I'm sneaking in.
     
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Mar 19, 2013, 04:20 AM
 
Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
Face's kids might revolt about the amount of veggies they're eating, my household has no idea how many of these slippery little fish I'm sneaking in.
I add the anchovies when I use meat.
     
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Mar 19, 2013, 09:11 AM
 
Originally Posted by mattyb View Post
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Mar 19, 2013, 11:40 AM
 
Bizarrely carrots are OK in our house. Celery will have to be cut into very smalls pieces. Haven't had music in the kitchen for a while, I suppose that some Italian opera would be acceptable (I'm not a great fan of Frank's)?

I may have to prepare this late at night because even the Mrs is anti-anchovy. Of course once the magical sauce has been eaten and appreciated, I can say that there's an anchovy in it. The red wine won't be a problem.

I'll look into the Grana Padano.
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Mar 19, 2013, 03:16 PM
 
I don't use sugar for sweetness. I use a small amount of honey or shredded carrots.
Besides, eat enough of something acidic (and very little that is sweet) and your tastes will adjust.
     
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Mar 19, 2013, 08:55 PM
 
I also opt for very small pieces of carrot instead of sugar.
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Mar 20, 2013, 09:57 AM
 
Carrots don't belong in tomato sauce. Nor do they make tomatoes taste more like tomatoes.

/yes Chef!
     
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Mar 20, 2013, 12:00 PM
 
You need to be a real greaseball to make a good marinara sauce. Fortunately, I have greaseball roots and can share this prize info with you.
It's only one man's opinion, but those recipes up above - carrots? Jesus Christ, no.
In fact, stop adding all the other ingredients too. No shallots, no anchovies. I forbid it, goddammit
A good base marinara is very simple, but requires about 5-6 hours of cooking.
Start with the base pasta sauce, then add your other ingredients the last hour if you want different flavored sauce.

you need:

1 can small tomato paste - Hunt's or Contadina brand
1 large can crushed tomatoes (or two pounds of over ripe roma tomatoes, skin and all, chopped) - Contadina or Pope or DeCecco or Hunt's
fresh garlic
fresh oregano to taste
3-4 fresh basil leaves
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of sugar ( IF the paste/crushed tomatoes are bitter)
pinch salt
pinch pepper
dash of crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

roughly chop your garlic, let it rest about 15 mins.

heat the oil, dump in the garlic

when the garlic begins to brown, dump in your oregano and let it cook for about 10 seconds.

spoon in your tomato paste. you want to brown the paste a bit, then give it a stir, singeing the paste until it starts to smoke. Don't burn it.

Mix in your chopped tomatoes or crushed tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, oregano, basil.

Mix everything up until smooth. If the sauce is too thick (like sour cream) then add about 1 cup water a little at a time until it thins out to an almost watery consistency.
heck, add at least one 1/2 cup water to thin the whole thing out. You will reduce it anyway.

Taste the watery mixture - if the initial flavor is bitter, add more sugar. If the mixture is bland, add a pinch more of salt, but be patient.

Now the most important ingredient : time. Let the mixture slowly cook to a boil, but you must stir constantly. Lower the heat to a simmer ( you want the sauce bubbly, but not violently boiling)

Continue stirring - constantly. For at least one hour. Stir the sides, stir the bottom, etc.. you will see a brown film on the edges - be sure to mix that in. Keep stirring.

By hour two you can further lower the heat. Keep stirring.

GIve the sauce a taste - it should have thickened a little and the tomato flavor should be about halfway there.

Add more sugar or salt to taste. Add more oregano or a bay leaf if you feel it needs more oomph.

By hour three you should see a noticeably darker sauce, if not then keep cooking another 30 minutes on very low heat.

Turn the heat off, let the sauce rest about an hour.

At hour 5 you can heat the sauce again on medium heat. Keep stirring as it comes to a slow boil
Lower the heat, let it simmer another 30 mins - and keep stirring!

By hour 6 you can either use the sauce or set it aside for freezing (after its cooled!)

Now, note that it helps to have a lit cigarette dangling from your mouth the entire time you're making the sauce, at least that's what my grandmother did. And it's also a good idea to curse, randomly and in Italian, whilst flailing and waving your arms in the air at some invisible foe.

btw I suggest you buy a good quality pasta - not Mullers or a cheap generic brand. Buy Barilla or Ronzoni. Or I'll come to your house in the middle of night and whack you. Good luck.
( Last edited by osiris; Mar 20, 2013 at 12:24 PM. )
     
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Mar 20, 2013, 12:42 PM
 
6 hours? I'd be so drunk that I wouldn't care what the sauce tasted like by the time it's finished !! (Wine rack is in the kitchen and I always drink wine while cooking). Guess that this is to be done say once per month and store the rest. Need to organise the making of this stuff around some sort of social event. Then I wouldn't be getting drunk on my own.

We use Barilla 99% of the time.
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Mar 20, 2013, 01:06 PM
 
Originally Posted by mattyb View Post
6 hours? I'd be so drunk that I wouldn't care what the sauce tasted like by the time it's finished !! (Wine rack is in the kitchen and I always drink wine while cooking). Guess that this is to be done say once per month and store the rest. Need to organise the making of this stuff around some sort of social event. Then I wouldn't be getting drunk on my own.

We use Barilla 99% of the time.
lol, I smoke a stogie and have a couple of beers, but if I had wine I'd fall asleep and wake to a smoldering kitchen.

It's funny about Barilla - I only recently started using it. Been a Ronzoni guy since childhood. I happened to try Barilla and was sold on the first try, the best I've ever had.
     
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Mar 20, 2013, 01:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by osiris View Post
if I had wine I'd fall asleep and wake to a smoldering kitchen.
*taking notes*
     
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Mar 20, 2013, 01:19 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
*taking notes*
also note that just before I pass out, I become dangerously violent and tend to demonstrate my 17th century katana collection.
     
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Mar 20, 2013, 01:25 PM
 
I am gratified to find that my franco-american mother's plain ol tomato sauce recipe is almost bona fide Italian (although she never cooked it for 6 hours.)

also, found this on epicurious for you:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/fo...o-Sauce-369172
     
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Mar 20, 2013, 01:44 PM
 
it's a labor of love, but cooking the tomatoes that long does something special. I've made quick sauces, but there is no comparison on a slow cooked sauce.
     
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Mar 20, 2013, 01:53 PM
 
I like sun dried tomatoes in my sauce with some rosemary.
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Mar 27, 2013, 08:38 PM
 
I've tried Philea's recipe, and the anchovies really did make a big, big difference. (Even though they cost an arm and a leg here in Japan.)
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