Basic Tomato Sauce

tomato sauce

With the extreme heat there hasn’t been a whole lot of cooking going on recently. Yesterday was 111°F. We filled the tub with cool water and sat in it and watched Mad Men on the laptop. The last thing I made was a batch of compost cookies for a friend’s 40th birthday party. Prior to that there were some cold soba noodles, and a few fried egg sandwiches. I’ve really missed cooking and eating home food. I love eating out but can only do it for so long. I like knowing exactly what’s in my food, and outside food is often far more greasy and salty than I like.

spaghetti with tomato sauce

Heading back into the kitchen today I decided to make something ultra simple and comforting—spaghetti and a slow cooked tomato sauce. Spaghetti and tomato sauce is one of those things that can go either way—glorious (as done at Terroni), or revolting (Ikea— what was I thinking?). The taste of the sauce depends entirely on the tomatoes used. Look for the best canned ones you can find, San Marzanos preferably.

When prepping garlic, the image from Goodfellas always comes to mind of Paulie in prison slicing garlic super thin with a razor blade, so it supposedly melts when it hits the oil in the pan. I always do garlic this way for tomato sauce, but honestly it never liquefies.

tomatoes and basil

Basic Tomato Sauce

2 x 28 ounce cans of whole tomatoes
4-6 cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced
1 small dried hot chili, or chili pepper flakes (optional)
olive oil
salt and pepper
6 basil leaves torn, plus one whole basil leaf per person for garnish

Heat a generous glug of olive oil over medium-low heat in a saucepan. Add garlic, chili and salt. Cook stirring frequently till garlic is lightly golden, but not brown. Keep a close eye on the garlic so it doesn’t burn.

Add tomatoes and their juices to the pan. Stir to dislodge garlic from bottom of pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer stirring occasionally for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes break up tomatoes with a wooden spoon or a potato masher and cook for 15 minutes longer.

A few minutes before done add the torn basil leaves. Makes enough sauce for 4 to 6 servings of pasta.

Serve with spaghetti or your favorite pasta. Top each serving with a whole basil leaf.

dried chillis

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