Sunday, January 24, 2010

Time to Get Sauced - Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce

I promised, several months ago, back on the Okee Dokee Gnocchi post that I would post about this when I was cleaning out my freezer before I moved back to Portland Oregon. Then Thanksgiving happened, and Volcano cakes for Birthdays, and Christmas, then New Years and then another Birthday as well as my own, and there was the birthday party for my nephews happening yesterday. Whew!!! I haven't been this busy in ages!

So, though it has taken me a lot longer than I originally anticipated, true to my word, this is how I make my Basic Tomato Sauce. I am not gonna lie to ya, it takes pretty much the whole day to make. Mainly because after it cooks for 6 hours you have to get it cooled off as quick as possible, though an ice bath helps, and then get it into freezer bags for storage. Oh yes, it makes a lot. I figure that if I am gonna spend all day cookin sauce I might as well make a ton of it, cause it takes about the same amount of time. Then I have sauce ready at all times. Just say "NO" to jarred sauce!

I found this recipe ages ago on the internet at "" but the last time I checked the site was no longer up and running. I have made a few changes over the years, but the basic recipe is still the same. One thing I do need to point out is that I use canned tomatoes. The reason is simple, unless you grew them yourself, are buying them from a local farm or receiving them from your next door neighbor chances are that those bright rosy red tomatoes in the grocery store aren't even ripe!?!?! Yep, most tomatoes have been gassed with ethylene which causes them to "ripen" (read: turn red) while they are still green. Canned tomatoes are picked from the vine and canned when they are truly ripe. So I use them to achieve a full tomato flavor.

About the tomatoes, cause this is going to determine how good your sauce is. In Italy they grow this wonderful tomato called the San Marzano, on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius. This is the quintessential Italian paste tomato.

We in America have tried to duplicate or model other tomatoes after it, this is how the "Roma" came into being. While the Roma tomato is quite delicious, it's flavor is inferior, being a little on the acidic side. If I had more disposable income, I would probably buy ALL San Marzanos to make my sauce, but alas, purchasing imported Italian tomatoes can be a little cost prohibitive. SO, I mix half San Marzanos with half Romas. I have noticed some recipes using sugar in the sauce to balance the acidity out. I feel better using the chopped carrot to do this, but it's a personally preference.

Oh, and the celery allows me to reduce the amount of salt I add. Both of these add backbone to the sauce as well... So it's ALL kinds of good.

Remember, if you and buying San Marzano tomatoes to read your labels carefully. There are fakes out there who cleverly "name" their product "San Marzano". These tend to be Roma tomatoes or some other form of a plum tomato. San Marzanos are not grown commercially here in the United States, or if they are, they aren't available on the West Coast. Read the label carefully and look for the "D.O.P".

If it's missing, then it's probably faked. The Romas will more than likely be marketed as either "Roma" or "Italian Plum Tomatoes" so it wont require as much label reading.

If you decide to use ALL Roma tomatoes for this sauce, double the carrot and double the celery and it will help to compensate for the lack of San Marzanos. Not completely, mind you, cause their flavor is hard to duplicate, but it will help.

Another ingredient that I love to use is the Cipollini onions and a shallot.

Cipolline onions are flattened and usually fairly small, about 1-2 inches across. They are also a little hard to get cut up, as well as difficult to find, but they are delicious.

The funny part is that Cipollini are not even onions, they are the bulb of the grape hyacinth. But whether they are onions or not they still lend a sweet, almost caramel flavor to the sauce.

This sauce is designed as a base for other sauces. You can add other ingredients to it and create Vodka Sauce, Arrabbiata Sauce, Mock Balognese, or simple cook up some meatballs, reduce some Sangiovese and add it to the warmed sauce, then toss it all together with fresh basil. (Which is what I am doing tonight)

Because of this, I use a stick blender to smooth it out, but if you are a chunky sauce lover, you can simply mash it at the beginning with the potato masher and leave it at that.

OK, now that I have finished my brain dump (I think I covered everything) and everyone is thoroughly bored, let's begin.

Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce

10 TB extra virgin olive oil (I use a Sicilian oil from Trader Joe's)
1 Large Carrot, chopped fine or *grated* (Use 2 if you are using 8 cans or Roma tomatoes)
1 Celery Rib, chopped fine (Use 2 ribs if using 8 cans of Romas) Chervil is better, if you can find it.
1 White Onion, chopped
2 Red Cipolline "Onion", minced
2 Yellow Cipollini "Onion", minced
1 Shallot, minced
8 large cloves garlic- finely chopped
2 -3 inches of anchovy paste or, 1-2 anchovies, smashed (use 4-6 inches or 2-4 anchovies if using 8 cans or Romas)
1 TB Fresh Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, minced
1 TB Dried Oregano
2 1/2 tsp whole Fennel seed (crushed in a mortar & pestle)
1 TB Dried Marjoram
1 1/2 tsp Dried Summer Savory
2 tsp Dried Thyme
1 tsp Dried Rosemary
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flake
4 (28 oz) cans peeled San Marzano Tomatoes
4 (28 oz) cans peeled "Plum" Tomatoes (usually labeled as "Italian" or Roma) Make sure they are Basil free or they may end up bitter.
1/2 tsp Fine Grind Black Pepper
1 TB Basil, chopped (For Later)
Salt to taste (usually 1/2 - 1 tsp.)

Add Olive oil to a LARGE Stock pot over medium heat. (I use a 22 quart pot so it doesn't "spit" all over the counter)
Add White Onion, Carrot, Celery and sweat until clear. (This is a Soffritto; the Italian word for a French Mirepoix)

Add Cipollini onions and sweat a little longer, about 2 minutes

The add the Shallot & Garlic, sweat until fragrant, do not let the garlic brown.

Remove from heat and add Anchovy Paste and All herbs EXCEPT the Basil, while oil is warm. This releases the fat solubles out of the herbs.

Don't forget you have to crush the fennel lightly with a mortar and pestle before adding....

Stir until fragrant.

Open your cans of tomatoes;

dump them unceremoniously into your stock pot;

grab your potato masher and go to town.
Return stock pot to Low heat, or use a diffuser on medium heat. Your sauce will scorch VERY easily at this point, and that would be a VERY bad thing.
Bring to a simmer uncovered, the water absolutely has to be able to evaporate and condense your sauce.
Simmer for 5 to 6 hours stirring occasionally (Not constantly, but you should not leave the house for any length of time)

I like to smooth out my base sauce, since I can always add fresh or diced tomatoes later.
Consequently at about the 5 hour mark I attack the sauce with a stick blender to make it smoother;

This is when I add the basil, because basil does not respond well to long cooking times becoming bitter if over-cooked.

When sauce is sufficiently thick and concentrated (this happens after it has been reduced by about 1/3), begin salting, don’t be afraid if is seems a little over salted, you will be putting this on pasta, which will absorb any excess salt.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temp in an ice bath.

Scoop into Zip loc bags

and freeze, lying flat on a baking sheet, until they are solid and can stack on their own.
I usually get about ten 2 1/2 cup servings, which is perfect for 12 oz of pasta. (unless you are adding a bunch of stuff to it at which point 16 oz of pasta may be better)

Basically meaning I reduced the original amount of tomatoes, plus all the other stuff which is about 9 quart... to about 6 quarts. So about a 1/3 reduction to thicken the sauce properly.



Unknown said...

Oh wow...that is one incredible batch of sauce!! i come!

P.S. Miss ya over in BS

DutchBakerGirl said...

What a great looking sauce--I can almost smell it through the screen!

P.S. I miss ya over in BS, too, even though I'm not there much myself....

Patti T. said...

Excellent tips on sauce, I cook mine a long time also. I am going to try using the immersion blender next time I whip up a batch. I always use the Muir Glen, now I will have to check for the San Marzanos. I learn so much from you, thank you.

Bob said...

Love it. Slow cooked tomato sauce is the bomb. I've never seen those San Marzanos before, I'll have to keep an eye out for them.

matt74 said...

Shane that look's killer...FUnny when I tell people D.O.P. san marzanos..they look at me crazy..they cannot be beat..good job

Cookiebaker said...

Wow...this sauce looks heavenly! I'm going to try this one sometime.