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Thread: One pan of tomato sauce, four hearty meals

  1. #1
    Science Editor SHAMAS's Avatar
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    Jun 2014
    Midlands, UK
    Pakistan UK

    One pan of tomato sauce, four hearty meals

    One pan of tomato sauce, four hearty meals

    A big pan of tomato sauce is the crimson lifeblood of Italian cooking. Find a recipe that works for your household and steadily spin it out all week

    Long before I moved to Italy, tomato sauce was my most faithful get-ahead panful. It was a mix of recipes: my mum’s (no doubt inspired by Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson), Claudia Roden’s, Anna del Conte’s, The River Cafe’s and even that of a friend’s Calabrian girlfriend. I was – I fancied – almost Italian because I used tomato sauce in as many ways as I could. Then I moved to Italy and discovered a world beyond tomato sauce. I was even made to feel slightly embarrassed by my love of red sauce – especially anglicised red sauce. For a while, tomato sauce was sidelined.

    Then I settled in Rome with a Sicilian – the grandson of a tomato farmer, no less – a man for whom salsa di pomodoro is a way of life, or rather a way of lunch. He didn’t turn his nose up at the way I made sauce (rather a lot of onion, carrot and celery back then), he simply nodded in approval, twisted his fork and ate.

    Everyone has their own recipe for tomato sauce, shaped by taste, influences and practice. This, my big batch sauce, is influenced by Sicilian salsa, sugo I’ve eaten here in Rome and also by being back in England regularly and wanting an accommodating sauce that also works when I can’t get hold of a glut of gorgeous fresh tomatoes. The sauce can be adjusted according to the season: all tinned in winter, more fresh in summer, tweaked with salt, chilli and sugar. Like so many Italian recipes, it is open to improvisation, so treat this as a template, not a prescription. That said, I will be prescriptive about the quantity of olive oil: don’t skimp. And buy the best tinned plum tomatoes you can.

    As to how to use this pan of sauce, we are suggesting spaghetti, pizza, eggs and beans. Of course you might – like us – eat pasta with tomato sauce for all four meals, which is fine too. The other beauty of this sauce is how well it keeps (a week in the fridge). Also, if at any point you think basta (enough) sauce, it freezes brilliantly. The last bit of advice is from my almost-mother-in-law: the sauce should cook at the sort of gentle simmer that has you peering under the pan to see if the flame has gone out, until a red burp on the surface reassures all is well.

    For the tomato sauce
    Makes 2 litres (approx)
    100ml olive oil
    3 garlic cloves, peeled, split but whole
    750g fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
    A pinch of salt
    A pinch of dried chilli flakes
    2 x 800g tins of plum tomatoes in juice (ideally san marzano)
    Sugar, to taste


    1 In a large, heavy-based pan, over a medium-low flame, warm half the olive oil and the garlic you have peeled and crushed with the back of a knife so it splits but remains whole. Let the garlic fry gently for a few minutes until it is pale gold and fragrant – it mustn’t brown or it will taste bitter. You can now remove the garlic if you like.

    2 Add the fresh tomatoes and a good pinch of both salt and dried chilli flakes. Let the pan simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

    3 Use scissors to roughly chop the tomatoes in their tins, then tip them into the pan along with the rest of the olive oil. Reduce the flame to very low and let the sauce simmer gently, uncovered, for 45 minutes, squashing the tomatoes against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon from time to time.

    4 Take the pan off the heat, taste and adjust seasoning (if the sauce seems a bit sharp, you can add a teaspoon or so of sugar). If you like a smoother sauce, pass it through a food mill, or blend in short, cautious blasts with a hand blender (too fast and it will turn into a pinky foam.)

    The hearty brunch: eggs in sauce
    White souls being cleansed in the red flames of purgatory is the image conjured up by this dish of eggs baked in tomato sauce – for my Neapolitan friend at least, who calls it ova ‘mpriatoro. My Sicilian partner calls it uova in salsa. I call it eggs in sauce, my son eggs rosse. While names are debated, we all agree it is a delicious dish. You could well get a bit obsessed with reducing the sauce to the ideal consistency and catching that precise moment the white soul is set, but the yolk still runny enough to bleed like a desert sunrise into the sauce. Bread or toast is essential. The peppers are optional, as is the pinch of chilli.

    Serves 4
    1 large or two small red peppers
    3 tbsp olive oil
    500ml tomato sauce
    A pinch of chilli (optional)
    4 large eggs
    Toast (rubbed with garlic, if you like)

    1 Peel, core and seed the pepper and cut into thin strips. In a large, deep frying pan, warm the olive oil over a medium-low flame, add the pepper and fry gently until soft, which will take about 7 minutes. Add the sauce and chilli, stir, lower the flame and simmer – stirring from time to time – for 10 minutes. Taste, adjust salt if necessary.

    2 Using a wooden spoon, make a crater in the sauce and quickly crack an egg into it. Repeat for the other three eggs. Cover the pan for 3 minutes, or until the eggs have set, but the yolks are still a bit runny. Serve right away with toast.

    The classic pasta dish: spaghetti with tomato sauce
    A couple of things: look out for decent-quality pasta (such as Garofalo), ideally extruded over bronze, which sounds grand, but isn’t. It is a process used by all good manufacturers to give pasta the rough texture that helps the sauce cling. Cook the pasta until al dente. Whether you eat it just so, or finished with a dusting of cheese, spaghetti al pomodoro is one of the world’s truly great meals.You could, of course, add a couple of anchovies, or a handful of capers and black olives to the sauce as you heat it up.

    Serves 4
    500g spaghetti
    500ml tomato sauce
    A sprig of fresh basil
    Parmesan or pecorino

    1 Bring a large pan of water to a fast boil, add salt, stir and add spaghetti.

    2 While the spaghetti cooks, warm the sauce in a small pan with a sprig of basil, tasting and adjusting salt if necessary.

    3 Drain the spaghetti, tip into a bowl, pour in ¾ of the sauce and toss well. Divide the spaghetti between four bowls and top with the remaining sauce. Pass around a bowl of grated parmesan or pecorino for those who wish.

    The perfect pizzas: pizza with tomato sauce and various toppings
    There are no two ways about it: pizza-making is a floury, chaotic affair, especially if everyone is involved in making their own, which they will be. You will be rolling, baking and eating in batches, so I suggest a floured zone for rolling, a topping zone and the table ready with boards, knives, napkins and beers. It is important the oven is at 250C/500F/gas mark 10, and the baking tray preheated. I generally begin with pizza bianca (dough simply brushed with oil and sprinkled with salt) to get a handle on timings. Then it is up to you. My personal favourite is tomato sauce, anchovies and capers. Once you get serious about pizza sessions, you may want to invest in an olive oil can with a really thin spout to finish each pizza before it goes in the oven.

    Makes 12 small pizzas
    For the dough
    500g plain flour, ideally Italian 00
    2 tsp fine salt
    10g fast-action dried yeast
    30ml extra virgin olive oil
    300ml warm water

    For the toppings
    250–350ml tomato sauce
    Thin slices of mozzarella, capers, olives, anchovies, oregano, thinly sliced red onion, prosciutto etc

    1 In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and yeast. Add the olive oil, then the water and, using first a spoon and then your hands, bring the dough into a rough ball.

    2 Take the dough from the bowl and then slap it down hard several times on a floured work surface to stretch it out. Then knead the dough using the heel of your hand to first push the dough away from you – so stretching it out – and then fold it back over. As you fold the dough back in, rotate it a little each time. Continue kneading like this for about 8 minutes, by which point the dough should feel soft and springy. Put it back in a clean bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm or a tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour or until it has doubled in size.

    3 Preheat the oven to 250C/500F/gas mark 10 and put a baking tray or pizza stone in it. Divide the dough into 12 balls – at this point the dough can be put on a tray, covered with a cloth and kept in the fridge for up to 12 hours. Cook the pizzas in pairs. Roll two balls into roughly 20cm discs. Remove the tray from the oven, then working quickly, put the pizzas on the tray, spread with some sauce and toppings (finish with a drizzle of oil, if you like) and slide into the oven for 5–7 minutes, depending on your oven.

    The speedy stew: white beans in tomato sauce
    In an ideal world – or rather fridge – I would have a get-ahead pan of both white beans and tomato sauce on the go at all times. With a couple of ladlefuls of both, warmed in a pan while the bread is toasted, a tasty supper would be on the table quicker than you can say “beans on toast”. I have only managed this ideal fridge once; the rest of the time I use tinned cannellini or butter beans with a portion of sauce. Sausages or couscous make it slightly more work, but not much.

    Serves 4
    500ml tomato sauce
    400g cooked white beans
    Salt and black pepper

    To serve
    Sausages, couscous or toast

    1 In a pan, over a medium-low heat, warm the beans and sauce. Taste-adjust the salt and grind over some black pepper. Serve with grilled sausages, couscous or simply on toast.

    • Rachel Roddy writes the popular blog Her first book, Five Quarters: Recipes from a Roman Kitchen (Saltyard Books) is out now

  2. #2
    Member dilkumar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Pakistan Pakistan

    Re: One pan of tomato sauce, four hearty meals

    You can do this with soups, stews and other things. You make a basic soup of sorts and then every day you add something different and you have a new dish. Same with stew or even a curry. The trick is adding a herb or spice as well to change the flavour.

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