Friday, September 5, 2014

Culinary Icons & Essential Recipes - Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce

Last week, in gardens all over, something was happening; 
The beautiful crop from my BFF's Buck's County Farm (Black Krim,
Yellow Tiger, Beefsteak)
Check out #buckscountybounty on Instagram for more!
Photo: Eric S. 

copious bushels of tomato were collectively ripening to perfection. It seemed like everywhere I looked, there'd be another social media post from a friend or family member documenting the much anticipated day when their summer tomato yield would be prepared and canned in order to ensure delicious sauce the whole winter long. 

I've always wanted to take part in this Italian tradition, but being an apartment dweller, heavy gardening has not been in the cards. If any of said friends or family are reading this, I am more than happy to take a few jars off your hands. (wink!). 
It pays to be a friend of the farmer!
Photo: Eric S.
#buckscountybounty on Instagram

Today, we're indulging our seemingly endless pasta craving by trying out a celebrated recipe for the easiest Tomato Sauce you'll ever make. The quality of the result swings so very much on using stellar red tomatoes (choose whatever size or variety is ripest), that it seemed to be the perfect time to try it and share. Culinary giant Marcella Hazan was a great talent who was instrumental in bringing Italian food to America, dispelling quite a few myths along the way. What follows below is one of her most celebrated recipes, one that stands with other iconic dishes and has stood the test of time. Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Butter is surrounded by the same mystique as Julia Child's Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, or the Silver Palate Cookbook's enduring favorite - Chicken Marbella

Take an hour out of your day to make it, and you will not believe how simple this recipe is and how delicious the results are. It's hard to understand, really. Not putting Garlic in my Tomato Sauce, as I usually do, felt somewhat unnatural to me. This sauce is at its best made with fresh, beautifully ripe Tomatoes. If you are not able to secure fresh tomatoes, you can definitely use canned San Marzano as an alternative. 

The result: Simplicity can be just delicious. Now, you're technically supposed to remove the onion before serving the sauce, but as you can see, I couldn't resist leaving a few little pieces in the mix. 

Marcella Hazan's Iconic Tomato Sauce Recipe, Photo: NK
The how-to is below, just as it appeared in The New York Times Dining and Wine section. When you have a spare moment, do also read this wonderful article on the late Hazan's immeasurable contributions to the culinary world, particularly her part in bringing true yet simple Italian cuisine to the American home cook. 

Total Time: roughly 1 hour
Serves 6, or enough for 1.5 pounds of pasta

2 Pounds of fresh ripe Tomatoes (we opted for Plum Tomatoes) blanched as described below OR 2 Cups Canned Imported Tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
5 Tablespoons Salted Butter
1 medium Onion, peeled and halved (we used a Vidalia but any white or yellow onion will do)
A few shakes of Salt

1. If using fresh Tomatoes, blanch as follows: Score an X using a knife into the top or bottom of each Tomato. Drop the Tomatoes in boiling water about a minute or so. Drain right away and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, skin them, remove the inside core and roughly chop. 

2. Put either the fresh or prepared Tomatoes in a medium saucepan. Add the Butter, Onion and Salt. Cook uncovered at a very slow simmer for about 45 minutes or until it has thickened to the point you'd like it to and the butter floats free of the Tomato. Stir from time to time throughout the cooking, mashing up the larger Tomato pieces using the back of a wooden spoon.  When finished cooking, taste and adjust the Salt. 

3. Discard the Onion before tossing the Sauce with Pasta. Enjoy!!! 

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