One of the most important items I have on hand at all times is my Basic Tomato Sauce. Sometimes called Salsa Di Pomodoro but more often called "Italian Gravy" by my Italian friends, this sauce is the start of many great recipes. Once a month, usually on a Sunday, I prepare a huge batch of this sauce for freezing and use it throughout the month in a variety of pasta dishes, pizza, chicken parmesan, or whatever recipe calls for tomato sauce.
I turn on the TV for some sporting event, don my apron, and get to work with the assistance of my wife. Now you can make this sauce by yourself, but it's much easier and a lot more fun when you cook with someone else especially when you can get them to peel the garlic and de-seed the tomatoes. The beauty of this basic sauce is the number of quick and easy pasta sauces you can make from it. By adding sautéed mushrooms, sausage, chopped beef, or vegetables to name a few, you can create a plethora of tasty meals.
For a basic sauce, you can't imagine the number of recipes out there to make this staple. For example, some cooks only used fresh tomatoes while others think canned are best. Some only add basil, others use battuto (diced carrots, onions, and celery). Some add sugar, some don't. Some add garlic and onions, others use one or the other, others don't use either.
When making a Basic Tomato Sauce, try this tip I was given by chef Ricco Deluca. Save the rinds from used Parmesan cheese, add them to the sauce while cooking and remove when done.
My Basic Tomato SauceI like to make a big batch and freeze it, so I use large #10 cans of tomatoes that I purchase from Costco. The hardest part of this recipe is de-seeding the tomatoes. The seeds are removed because they make the sauce bitter. It’s a pain in the neck, but a must if you want to enhance the flavor of the sauce. I start out by pulsing the tomatoes in my food processor. You don’t want to puree the tomatoes, just break them up some. I then push the pulp through a strainer saving the pulp and juice and throwing out the seeds and tomato membrane. You can also use a food mill to remove the seeds.
I don’t add a lot of other ingredients except for garlic and chicken stock. Although most recipes I’ve seen don’t add chicken stock, I like it because it adds flavor and volume to the sauce. Remember, this is a base sauce and you will add other ingredients as recipes call for them. I also add a little sugar to sweeten the sauce, but you can also sauté some carrots and add them for the same effect.
Also, this recipe calls for a Sachet. This is a piece of cheese cloth filled with herbs and spices, tied into a bundle with a piece of kitchen string and added to the cooking sauce to add flavor. I prefer to use fresh herbs, but that is not always possible, so my Sachet for this recipe includes dried herbs. It is removed when the sauce is finished.