A FINE SIMPLICITY: TOMATOES, ONIONS, GARLIC AND HERBS
I love my wife. She gives me a reason for many, many things, not the least of which is cooking for two on a pretty regular basis. Which, no matter what anyone tells you, is always a much more fulfilling and rewarding activity than cooking for one. In addition to her many other fine qualities, she’s my principal food taster, eater and sounding board. She’s also a great tryer. On many an occasion she’s sampled my wares with good humor in spite of the fact that, “[Blank] just doesn’t appeal to me.” In most cases “[blank]” tends to be something along the lines of rabbit kidneys, pure cured pork fat, raw duck or other miscellaneous bit of critter that I can’t bear to throw away.
In short, I cook for her often and I enjoy it, due in no small part, to the fact that she enjoys it. Yet, despite a ready access to nearly any dinner she wants, her number one request is nearly always something very, very simple: pasta with quick tomato sauce. She loves it and craves it, and her love is not misplaced. Certain things need to be there to remind us that, to be good, something doesn’t have to be extracted, or complicated, or time consuming. It simply needs to be good.
This sauce takes about 25 minutes from start to finish. It can be made from items that are almost always in my pantry. It’s delicious. It’s not my family’s sauce but it reminds me of my family and the lessons that I’ve learned from them. Namely that simple is good because it’s good [insert silent “you dumbsonofabitch”]. And even more importantly, it makes me think of my wife.
Quick Tomato Sauce
1 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes (Yes San Marzano makes a difference. Pay the extra $2 a can you cheap bastard, this is still a full meal for under 10 bucks)
1 large onion, diced
A few cloves of sliced garlic
A fresh herb like basil, oregano or thyme
Salt & Pepper
Red pepper flakes
Brown the butter, add the oil, soften the garlic and onion with some seasoning, crush the tomatoes with your hand and add to the pan along with the juice, add half the herbs, season more, cook down, taste, add the other half of the herbs and adjust salt, pepper and red pepper. Done. Simple. Great.
With this recipe you now have a better tomato sauce than any jarred crap from Fancoulo’s or whoever else duped you out of a few bucks. With this recipe you can also make any number of sauces in about the same amount of time: amatriciana (sub the butter for rendered and browned guanciale, julienne the onions instead of chopping and add extra pepper flake), arrabiata (add extra pepper flake and garlic), sausage and peppers (brown the sausage, use the fat to sauté the onions and garlic and add in some roasted peppers), puttanesca (sauté some anchovy with the onions, finish the sauce with capers and gaeta olives), melanzane (a little sautéed eggplant in the mix and goat cheese to finish).
With this recipe you can have a refined sauce (by passing it through a food mill) for pizza or ravioli, or a rustic sauce (by just squishing the tomatoes with your hand) for whatever you feel like.
But most importantly, with this recipe you can make something with love for those that you love without that disturbing THWAK, THWAK, THWAK sound of trying to coax something from a jar. A jar, not incidentally, that has been filled with something made without giving a single shit by someone you don’t know.