Early morning. I’ve walked out to the garden to harvest tomatoes. My farmer neighbour is cutting hay in the field near by. The swaths lay in military straight rows. The air is filled with the perfume of the freshly cut hay. The sun catching diamonds of dew suspended in delicate cobwebs in grass around the garden.
Like glowing rubies tomatoes hang suspended from vines. A tomato house protects them from low night river fog that growls and prowls our gardens and blight the tomatoes. It’s not an elegant structure. A wooden frame and heavy plastic curtains open for sun then close at night. It gives an extra month or so of growing time and generously increases our crop of tomatoes.
I’ve picked a heavy basket of tomatoes; irresistibly sweet, juicy, rich and bursting with flavours. Tomatoes you eat over the sink, sprinkled with a little Malden salt. Juice running down your arms and a beatific smile on your face. Now is the time to practice tomato alchemy and turn these tomatoes into sauce.
Start this sauce by melting butter and onions.
To me this recipe is the simplest, most elegant and finest of all sauces. Chopped tomatoes, butter, onion and salt. Five minutes preparation time. Forty-five minutes cooking time and the occasional stir. Serve it over linguine generously anointed with parmigiana cheese. Toss it with gnocchi. Top an artisan pizza. Or simply stand at the stove and eat a spoonful or too. After all, one simply must taste to check salt seasoning.
|THE VERY VERY BEST TOMATO SAUCE . . . thank you Marcella Hazan|| |
- 2 pounds, 3 cups chopped, 907g peeled tomatoes with their juice (or 28 oz. canned tomatoes such as San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
- 5 tablespoons, 2.5 oz. 7lg unsalted butter. (Yes this much butter. It 's the butter that gives this sauce it's incomparable rich flavour.
- 1 medium onion
- sea salt
- First blanch and peel your tomatoes. It's a simple process. Drop the potatoes into boiling water for about 20-30 seconds. Then quickly chill them in a bowl of ice water for a minute or so. Fetch them out and let them drain in a colander as you slip the skin off. Tomatoes that are over ripe will become a little mushy but they work.
- Peel the onions and cut into half or quarters. If possible keep the root end attached making it easier to remove the onion when the sauce is finished. (In the photographs I have doubled the recipe so I have more quarters swimming in tomatoes).
- Drop the butter into a generous sized sauce on medium heat. You need a wide pan. You are reducing the volume.
- Add the onions cut side down and let the onions bath in the melted butter for a minute or two.
- Tip the chopped tomatoes and their juice into the pan.
- Season with about one half teaspoon or so of sea salt. You will taste the finished sauce to adjust the seasoning so use a light hand.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 40 to45 minutes Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to break down the tomatoes but try to keep the onions whole..
- Remove the whole onions with a slotted spoon. Fish out any errant pieces of onion.
- I don;t throw away the onions. Just pop them in a container and freeze and use when you are making stock.
- For a really smooth sauce use a potato masher to break up the last of the tomatoes.
- For a vegan sauce substitute a really good quality extra virgin olive oil with a mild flavoour.
The recipe is from Marcella Hazan’s book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992). A much used, food spattered, absolutely adored book.