Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mario Batali's Basic Tomato Sauce

Do you ever pick up a jar of sauce at the store, look at the ingredients, and wonder, "why am I buying this?" I did just that the last time I bought a sauce and decided that next time I'd make my own. That time is now. Before leaving for the store, a quick search on Epicurious found this very simple recipe by Mario Batali.

The recipe called for a Spanish onion and canned whole tomatoes. Rather than driving to a store for those items, I used what I had in the pantry, a plain ol' brown or yellow onion and cans of diced tomatoes.

Basic Tomato Sauce
adapted from Epicurious
click to print

1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
4 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes

In a 3.5-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the thyme and carrot and cook until the carrot is quite soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, with their juice, and bring to a boil, stirring often.

Lower the heat and simmer until as thick as hot cereal, about 30-70 minutes. Season with salt.

This took more than double the recipe's suggested time, but that might've been my turning the heat down too low or because I used 14.5-oz cans of tomatoes rather than 28 and there was extra juice.

The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for 6 months.

And voila! A sauce without added sugar and limited salt. It was very simple and clean tasting. Unexpectedly, I couldn't even tell there were carrots in it. Likely they are added as a natural sweetener, offsetting the acidic tomatoes. In that case, a little more carrot would've suited me. And that makes me wonder if Spanish onions are sweet. I bet they are.

I could do with a little more seasoning, maybe adding in a little pile of basil at the end. I am partial to basil. Here's a thought, I wonder if the simplicity is intended so you can taste whatever the sauce is added to. You know, like tasting the pasta instead of burying it.

Either way, it's a cinch to make and calls for just a few ingredients. I'll definitely be making this again, possibly as originally written, Spanish onion and all.

Oh yeah, and I felt sort of like Paul Sorvino as Paul Cicero slicing my garlic. The Shun paring knife did a very good job of getting razor thin slices.

  • extra-virgin olive oil: $0.47 
  • onion: $0.26
  • garlic: $0.15 
  • fresh thyme: $0.50 
  • carrot: $0.07 
  • diced tomatoes: $2.56 
Total: $4.01 or about $1 per cup.