Cupboard essentials are made up of the tried and true combinations that may or may not be written in a diary or cooking journal. They are the constant factors that stock the pantry, making it possible to prepare a wholesome meal. Cupboard essentials often go unnoticed because of their apparent simplicity. Yet these are often the recipes that define the personality of a cook. Slowly stewed tomato sauce is a main ingredient in my kitchen.
At the height of summer I bring home baskets of fresh tomatoes and roast them in the oven for a fresh jam-like sauce. But for all those other moments, I slow cook the best canned tomatoes from Italy I can buy. I choose crushed tomatoes above whole tomatoes, making an exception for whole tomatoes from San Marzano. The sound of a quietly bubbling sauce in a pan is meditative and promising at the same time. The following recipe makes two lovely large glass jars full of sauce.
- 1200 grams canned tomatoes . crushed or San Marzano
- 400 grams of carrots
- 200 grams of shallots or red onion
- four cloves of garlic
- 30 grams of fresh flat leaf parsley
- the leaves of two sprigs of rosemary
- three bright green bay leaves
- 50 grams of extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
Wash and peel the carrots and cut them into an even dice. Put the carrots in a sauce pan and cover them with 400 ml of water and add a pinch of sea salt. Cook the carrots until tender. Set the carrots and their cooking liquid aside. Meanwhile wash the flat leaf parsley and dry it in tea towel. Chop the leaves and their stems with a sharp knife until fine. Pick the leaves of fresh rosemary and mince them as well. Peel the garlic and the shallots and cut them into a very fine dice.
Choose a wide-bottomed pan to prepare the sauce. Warm the olive oil in the pan at medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, rosemary, parsley and a teaspoon of sea salt. Simmer the ingredients at medium heat for ten minutes. When the shallots have cooked to pale transparency, add the crushed tomatoes. Pour the carrots and the cooking liquid into the pan. Add the bay leaves. Simmer the ingredients at the lowest possible heat for two and a half hours, stirring occasionally. Take the sauce off the stove and let it rest 30 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves from the sauce. Pass it through an old-fashioned food mill or use an immersion blender to create a smoother result. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, tasting it for the right balance between savory and sweet. Add sea salt if so desired. The tomato sauce will taste even better after chilling completely in the refrigerator overnight. Gently reheat the sauce as needed.
♦ Suggested combinations
Use the tomato sauce to prepare “melanzane alla parmigiana” or for a stew red onions and fennel. This sauce is the perfect basis for Sicilian caponata — yet another personal favorite. Slow cooked tomato sauce quickly turns into a beautiful “puttanesca” with cappers and anchovies, or a classic “arrabbiata” with spicy red peppers.
I cook carrots in water and not directly in the tomatoes because they then have a sweeter flavor. Carrots give body to a tomato sauce. Their bright orange color intensifies the red of the tomato.
Slow cooked tomato sauce keeps well one week in the refrigerator.