Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
52 weeks in Italy. Week Tre (three)
We’re going to be posting our Italian Culinary Sojourns more regularly since we are shifting our focus to progression through the 52 weeks in our Italian sojourn rather than podcast readiness. But, will eventually present these dishes on the podcast at a future date. We have been immersed in Italian cuisine for the past couple of months and have made some delightful discoveries. The Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter recipe is one such discovery that was introduced to us in a Craftsy course from Marcella Hazan’s son, Giuliano Hazan. This was recipe number one in his Classic Italian Pasta Sauces Meat and Tomato class. It is also found in our text for this series Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, Giuliano’s mother, and can be found on page 152. You can pick this up at any bookstore or on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and even find copies at Half Priced Books. On Amazon is has 4 ½ stars out of five based on 490 reviews. But also, we will sprinkle a little of Giuliano’s work as well when there is not an equivalent recipe found in Essentials. In such cases, we will link to the recipe if it is posted online or link to the source where you can purchase the published recipe.
Part of the reason we do Culinary Sojourns is to expand our knowledge of different regional and cultural cuisine. This sampling we do allows us to cook with different ingredients, learn new techniques, and experiment with different flavors. Since our focus is authentic Italian cuisine we will stay true to the recipe as much as possible.
We started this series by making a meat broth that we planned to make a number of different soups. While about half still sits in the freezer, we will revisit soups in more detail when the summer produce starts to arrive where we will make classic Italian Minestrone and Pasta Fagioli. But for now, we are going to switch gears and shift to Classic Italian Pasta Sauces. All in all, we have found Giuliano’s courses to be excellent in content as well as rich in experience from the viewing to the actual dishes that he presents to finally replicating those presentations at home, which results in excellent eating. We do highly recommend all of his classes. He has classes on meat and tomato pasta sauces, seafood and vegetable pasta sauces and Giuliano takes the mystery out of making homemade pasta in his Homemade Italian Pasta course.
As we have evolved in our approach since the German series, we have deliberately slowed down to prepare a dish a number of times before we include the recipe as part of the series. The recipe we are presenting today is one that we have made a number of times not only because it is probably one of the easiest sauces you could ever make, but the result is well worth the effort. When we prepare pasta sauces, we typically make on average four times the recipe as we use #10 cans of San Marzano tomatoes which usually equates to around 12 cups of tomatoes, so we need to adjust the other ingredients to scale up to that. Number ten cans are pretty reasonable at the store. You can purchase one for around $3.00 a can and we have found the quality to be excellent. Usually we’ll make a large batch and then that turns out to be my lunches for the week. Whatever sauce that is left over stores easily in the freezer until you are ready to use it.
Basically, Giuliano presents a number of different sauces that use either fresh or canned tomatoes and we have been preparing each week. We are interested in not only learning the recipes and techniques, but also wanting to make the classic Italian cooking part of who we are. It is one thing to take a course and gain a head knowledge, or perhaps making a recipe once before moving on to something else. We are taking the step to making it over and over again for full understanding and integration to what we do as well as a dish that will become a regular feature on our menu.
The Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter is the perfect launching pad into Italian pasta sauces as it is a sauce with only four ingredients. That’s it. Anyone can make this sauce and make it to perfection. That is the beauty of it. The simplicity of the ingredient and the wonderfully rich sauce that results after an hour or so on the stove is why it is the perfect introduction to Italian Pasta sauces. As Giuliano puts it, it is truly an Italian comfort food. The sauce is so good that as Marcella puts it people choose to ignore making the pasta and just “eating it off the spoon.”
While making the sauce, we found you don’t need to go to the trouble of chopping up the canned tomatoes in this recipe. You can pretty much measure out your ingredient and add to the pot. The tomatoes break down very nicely during the simmering process. If you plan to go with fresh tomatoes then peeling and dicing would be the route you would want to go. Also, you will find Italians season their food with sea salt. I suppose that is due to the proximity Italy is to the ocean that boarders most of the country making sea salt readily available. I found I like using fine sea salt as I found it enhances the food nicely. The kosher salt has larger grains that need to fully dissolve to gain the full effect in your cooking.
One of the big things I learned with Italian sauces is that they are generally simmered until all of the liquid has evaporated out of them. What you are left with is a very nice concentrated flavor of the tomatoes and other ingredients. When added to pasta, provides such a different experience than you would get out of a jar. Italian comfort food is food you don’t want to rush through, but one where you will want to choose to linger over each bite. Eating is a way of life. You can just envision yourself in Northern Italy enjoying this classic sauce preparation even with the stresses of daily life surrounding you from each side. Take a moment and enjoy this one. I think you would agree and would come back to time and time again as we have. I agree with Giuliano, don’t throw away the onion. It is the best part. This sauce is highly recommended. If you don’t own the Essentials cookbook, the recipe can probably be found online or in a You-Tube video as Giuliano has a series of cooking videos out there as well as his Craftsy courses.
On the next installment in our Italian Culinary Sojourn, we are going to be making a classic Bolognese sauce. This is a meat sauce with a long cooking time. This is another terrific sauce we’ll have for you next week.
As always, we’ll post progress photos on Facebook. So, you’ll want to keep checking back for that.
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