Chris' Recipes

Bon Appetite!

Basic “True” Italian Tomato Sauce, taught by Pete

Written By: Chris - Apr• 29•14

While we were visiting our friends Pete and Martinique in Seattle over our Christmas break, Pete and I enjoyed some time in his kitchen.  One of the things he taught me how to make was his “True Italian” red sauce.  I’ve been meaning to blog this and had taken step by step pictures while he was teaching me so that I would remember!  I’ve made this sauce several times since and while reviewing these images, realize that I not only do I need to add more garlic, but I need to buy myself a potato masher because I think that I’ve been leaving it chunkier than I should.  Referring to a documented recipe is a good thing, because we all tend to make small changes that we may not even be aware of and following a recipe can get us back on track!

This sauce is a staple in Pete’s house.  He uses it in numerous dishes that he prepares and since it takes a while to put together, always has some on hand in his freezer because it keeps very well.  I’ve been doing the same thing.  I will often make up batches on the weekends and what I’ve found is that using quality ingredients really does make the difference!  You can find similar brands at your grocery store, but I’ve also gone on line and ordered the same brands that Pete has access to with Amazon’s grocery program, locally there in Seattle.  It’s funny, now I see the San Marzano Tomatoes on most of the cooking shows I watch on Food Network.  If you pay close attention, you’ll start seeing ingredients that you should consider taking note of and see if they make a difference in your dishes!

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Ingredients: 

3 Cans San Marzano Tomatoes (area, Naples Italy)
2 Whole Bulbs Garlic Peeled and Stemmed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Make sure that it is imported and 100%  
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt, while garlic is softneing
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Oregeno, dried crushed
1 teaspoon Red Pepper, crushed

This will include images of my first attempt to make the sauce at home.  While I was preparing my first batch, I was taking photo’s and texting them to Pete for his guidance long distance and in assembling these images for the blog, I found that I had made some mistakes in my initial efforts.  I will later explain why I now choose particular brands, but overall really enjoyed this learning experience!  I was humored when I saw this image of wine mixed in with my recipe and recall Bill and I were enjoying some while I was cooking.  Pete loves a quality wine, so he must have been with me in spirit!  Perhaps drinking the wine was why I made those initial mistakes and I’ve always loved Julia Child’s saying:  “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking!”  (But not this time! This 2005 Stonestreet “Christopher” Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley was purely for enjoyment and not a part of this recipe!) 

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Let’s get to the sauce!  Start by cutting the ends off of the garlic cloves, leave them whole while peeling them and don’t crush or smash them.  Pete had told me that sometimes he cuts the larger cloves in half so that all of the garlic is the same size for even cooking, which is what I did.  Now I usually try to choose cloves that are the same size and save the smaller cloves of the center of the bunch for later.  I prefer not to cut any of them.

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This is the brand of Olive Oil I prefer to use as recommended by Pete, but have since found additional high quality brands.  I’ve purchased numerous over the years, but recently learned quite a bit when Bill and I attended an Olive Oil tasting at  “The Oilerie” in Maple Grove.  It was very interesting  and understood many more health and beauty benefits from olive oil following the event.  We were surprised to learn that the US food and drug administration doesn’t do a great job regulating oil and that it really only requires 15% of the “olive oil” in stores to contain “actual olive oil”!  Most do not realize that the balance is a number of other oils including vegetable and most commonly canola oil as a filler.  Sadly, people assume that they are buying olive oil at a premium price but they are really getting mostly other added oils!  Another interesting fact is that olives are originally pressed at 55 degrees and that the second press when it considered “extra virgin olive oil”.  After the second press, the maker heats the oils for the third press making it “Pure” olive oil.  Lastly, if the oil is pressed a fourth time it is then considered “light or extra light” and at really no longer contains any health benefits.  One might assume that “light” would be a healthier variety, but it really is not.  You should look for imported oils from Italy or Greece where they require authentic 100% olive oil before distribution.  I still need to do homework on the oils that I buy in Napa Valley, but will get to that another day! 

Using a large pan, pour enough oil over the peeled garlic to cover it, but it shouldn’t float.  Pete’s images will be on the left in the silver pan and mine on the right in the white, cast iron dutch oven pan.

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The first mistake that I realized was that I had added a little too much olive oil.  Before proceeding, I poured some of it off and used it later as infused oil, so there was no loss there.  

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The bottom of these three images was once I removed some of the oil.  Pete says to saute the garlic over medium – low heat until the garlic is softened; but not transparent.  It takes about ten to 15 minutes.  Keep the heat low because you do not want it browned; be sure to stir frequently.  I saw later in my notes that the salt is to be added during this process and not later with the tomatoes; however looking at Pete’s images, he added it with the pepper, so now I need to ask if it really matters…

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Next add the tomatoes to the garlic and oil, leaving them whole and with the juice.

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You can see the quality of the tomatoes is not the same, even though I paid more for mine then Pete did.  I prefer the brand on the left because the tomatoes were all fully in tact and not broken compared to the texture of the ones I used.

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Season the tomatoes with the salt, pepper, red pepper and oregano.

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Stir and bring to a boil before covering and simmering over low heat for at least an hour and a half.

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Again, you can see how the brand on the left held together better then the brand I used.

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Stir and remove from heat.

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Using a potato masher, crush the tomatoes.  I used the closest thing I had, but I wasn’t able to feel the “popping” of the garlic cloves or tomatoes like I recall when we made it at Pete’s.

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Return the sauce to medium low heat and continue to cook for 30 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir and taste!  You may need to season with a skosh more of salt.

With the highest quality of ingredients, I’ve mastered this sauce and believe that Pete would agree that mine is as good as his!

Consider adding fresh Parmesan or fresh basil and/or parsley before serving over pasta or other dishes.

Enjoy!
Cheers!
~Chris

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4 Comments

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