This is a simple recipe based on a delicious sauce my mother used to make. Minimalist, slightly verbose, directions below:
I don’t remember if my mother used red pepper or a carrot (I haven’t watched her make the sauce in more than 45 years), but they add a nice sweetness to the sauce. We like garlic, so I use several large cloves, 1/2 cup, from the looks of this, finely chopped. One medium onion, finely chopped.
Cover the bottom of your sauce pan with a thin layer of oil (we use avocado oil), turn on the heat– medium high. When the oil is hot (a dropped chopping sizzles) stir in the chopped ingredients, stirring frequently until the onions are a caramel color (the photo above is early in the process). When I make this with fake meat (my mother used real chopped meat, particularly when she made her incomparable lasagne), I brown the fake meat during this stage of cooking.
During Sekhnet’s tomato season I cut off the tops of and parboil as many as she harvests (until the skin looks wrinkly), remove them carefully with a slotted spoon, into a strainer, run them under cold water (the suckers are hot!) and pull the skins off, before adding them to the ingredients above. In the winter, it is a can or two of whole tomatoes, which have been skinned somewhere in Italy. Using canned tomatoes (though not quite the same as fresh, ripe ones) eliminates the real possibility (the first time) of being hurt by a scalding hot tomato you are skinning.
Pour the tomatoes into the sauce pan, mixing well and crushing them with a wooden spatula or potato masher (I suppose you could also use crushed tomatoes in the can). Once it reaches a boil, simmer it over a low flame, uncovered (this allows it to reduce into a rich sauce). Stir frequently while it simmers.
Every half hour or so spoon out a bit, let it cool, taste it. When it is close to your liking, add chopped fresh oregano and fresh basil to the sauce, stir and simmer a bit longer. This is also the time to start the pasta cooking.
You will notice I mention neither salt nor ground pepper, though both can be added. We use only a pinch or two. These can also be added to taste once the sauce is on your plate, if anyone at your table is trying to limit their salt intake.
It is possible to eat this sauce after a fairly short cooking time (less than an hour, or even twenty minutes in). But Sekhnet, shrugging like one of her mother’s old Italian friends will say, with the tolerant, slightly pitying nod of someone forced to state the obvious, “it’s young.”
The young sauce is not bad, but the longer you cook it, the more it reduces (as water slowly boils away) and the richer the flavor becomes. Like many good things, this sauce rewards your patience.
A great sauce for a cold day, and if you love a good pasta sauce, your house will smell great for a few hours while it’s cooking.