Monday, January 24, 2011

For Meatless Monday: A Simple Sauce

From The LA Times Top 10 Under-Appreciated Superfoods:
“Did you know that a can of tomatoes is loaded with vitamin C, fiber, potassium and iron? What makes these ruby gems even more special is their rich load of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that becomes more available to your body when it is cooked. Lycopene has a host of benefits, including inactivating free radicals, protecting against cancer and slowing the development of atherosclerosis which leads to heart disease. Stir canned tomatoes into pasta dishes, soups, stews, curries, casseroles, Mexican dishes and side dishes for delicious, nutritious comfort.”

I use canned tomatoes ... a lot. I especially like Italian diced tomatoes. I put them in soup and pasta dishes, and I use the Southwest diced tomatoes for Mexican dishes. I like them because they have flavorful things added, like oregano, basil and garlic.

When I came across this simple tomato sauce recipe, I was instantly intrigued. Add butter to canned tomatoes to make a rich tasting sauce? Really? But it's a recipe from a very famous Italian cook, Marcella Hazan, so it has to be good! In case you don't know, Marcella Hazan is to Italian cooking in America what Julia Child was to French cooking. Hazan is the godmother of Italian cookbook authors published in the United States. She is widely considered to be one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine. Hazan says of Italian cooking in America: "Too much garlic, too little salt." Her simple sauce, with only three ingredients, was brilliant, with a creamy, unexpected richness. I'll definitely be making it again. And again.

Marcella Hazan's Simple Sauce
1 whole onion, peeled and cut in half (so you see the layers like the rings of a tree)
1-28 ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped (from San Marzano if you can find them)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (this is important; do not substitute oil)
Pasta of your choice
I used salted butter, because it was all I had on hand (I also salted my pasta water). Place the onion, tomatoes and butter in a saucepan and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove the onion (the instructions say to toss the onion, but if you’re like me, you will serve it to your husband with a little salt & pepper; he'll love it). And that's all there is to it. You end up with a light tomato sauce that tastes like something from your favorite Italian restaurant. Serve over pasta with fresh grated Parm.

Note: I used 2-14.5 ounce cans Italian diced tomatoes in place of the whole peeled tomatoes. I also added about 1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes to my sauce.

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