“Master the basics!” is such a vague suggestion. Where do you draw the line between what is basic and what isn’t? Doesn’t it vary from culture to culture? From cuisine to cuisine?
These are all questions that I do not have the answer to and will not attempt to answer in this post.
What I do want to talk about, however, is a “basic” that I have come to know and love (though I’m not sure if I can use the word “master” yet): tomato sauce.
I wrote in my Shakshuka post about the base tomato sauce I used; one from Giada de Laurentiis. I quite liked the recipe, but after a few times making it I started to get a little bit adventurous, and decided to tweak things here and there to suit my tastes.
I made another batch of sauce last night (without referring to any recipes), and it occurred to me that…I seem to have developed my own tomato sauce recipe! I made it with the intention of spiking it with some spices and poaching some meatballs in it (more on that another time) for a housewarming party I was attending. The dish got questions (about the meatball, yes), but also about the sauce!
Quite honestly, there was something truly special about this particular batch of tomato sauce; when I tasted it in my kitchen just after completing it, I experienced a full-body sensation of joy. It was undoubtedly the best one I’ve ever made, and I want to share it with anyone who might want to try it out themselves! I really hope you enjoy as much as I did. I’ve certainly come to learn that even “basics” can be delicious.
1 medium onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, leaves removed, roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
6 basil leaves, whole
4 cans cut tomatoes
2 tbsp unsalted butter
optional: bay leaves (3)
salt and pepper
- Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until just starting to brown, stirring frequently. Add pinches of salt and pepper while cooking.
- Add carrot and celery, and drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil in, adding a couple more pinches of salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables have softened.
- Add the cans of cut tomatoes. Fill 2 emptied cans with water and pour in as well. Add the basil leaves. Stir to incorporate. Bring to a boil. Let the mixture cook down for 45 minutes to an hour (mine reduced by about an inch in the pot). When ready, the mixture should be considerably thicker, but not stewy.
- Add the 2 tbsp of unsalted butter and stir until it melts into the sauce. Let it cool, then add it in batches to a food processor or blender and make it smooth.
Results in about 6 cups of delicious tomato sauce. Tweak as desired. Most importantly, though: enjoy!