Saturday, September 6, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Marinara Sauce

Submitted by CSA member Ralph

As I understand it, there are three general categories of Italian tomato sauces: Rustica, Marinara, and Napoli. Other sauces can be made from one of these basic sauces: Shrimp fra Diavolo from marinara; Bolognese from Napoli; etc. 

Rustica and Marinara are “coarse,” “quick” sauces while Napoli is a very smooth, long-cooked one. For Napoli, the (usually Roma/plum) tomatoes are peeled and seeded and the flesh is cooked long and slow until it becomes a smooth sauce.  Rustica is often made by removing the stem remnants, and coarsely chopping and cooking the tomatoes skin, seeds, and all, along with whatever additions you like (herbs, onions, mushrooms, sausage…). Marinara is slightly more “civilized” than Rustica in that the tomatoes are peeled and the seasoning is more restrained.


Prepare the tomatoes* by removing the skins and the stem remnant and chopping them coarsely.
Put them in a big enough pot with garlic and oregano.
Cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens but is still somewhat chunky.
Add a little olive oil for flavor.
Salt [It’s best to add it at the end.  Add the salt slowly just until the aroma of the sauce “blooms”.]

(Note that I have given no quantities. That’s because it depends on how many tomatoes you have. If you are hesitant to season the sauce “to taste,” just start with a little and add more until you like it. The only likely way to ruin Marinara sauce is by adding too much salt. Who ever heard of too much garlic?)


* Any tomato may be used for Marinara or Rustica.  I find that the big yellow heirlooms that I get from the CSA farm share make a really pleasant sauce.

[Remember that, when it comes to ethnic cooking, there are 10,000 ways to make it and everybody’s grandmother makes it the “right” way.]


Hints:
If you cook tomato sauce in an aluminum pan, it turns dark, losing the lovely natural color of the tomatoes.


If the sauce is too acidic, add some baking soda.  Do that before adding the salt as both contain sodium.

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