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2007-09-29 Sauce, baby!

I am so pleased with myself. Tonight I made my own tomato sauce, and it came out fantastic.

My previous efforts with sauce have been as an "assistant chef" working with others who had made sauce before. I was never very satisfied with the results. First, there was one of my college roommates. He was part English, and apparently had a genetic predisposition towards flavoring everything with cinnamon. We made eggplant parmagian, a difficult dish to begin with, and he directed the production of the sauce. I recall being distinctly unimpressed with the results.

The second episode (or rather, set of episodes) was with my ex, the woman whom I lived with for most of my twenties. She always made her own tomato sauce. I never complained about it, but I always found it to be bland (she did make an awesome wine and onion based sauce one time, and it left it's mark, as you shall see).

So, even as I have built my credentials as an amateur chef, I have long avoided sauces of all kinds, believing them to be out of my reach. I was just telling some other people recently that I thought sauces were recipes that evolved - start with something very basic, then tweak it over the course of years (yea, even generations) until you have a recipe that makes your guests salivate uncontrollably. I considered the possibility of precipitating such an evolution.

Today, Jenny was away, and I had a hankering to try something adventurous, something I've never done before, something ... saucy!

I set off on the internet in search of the basics (like, what actually goes into a tomato sauce, anyway). I came up with this recipe - and promptly began deviating from it.

So with no further ado, here's my recipe:

  • 3 Cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1/2 Tsp salt

  • 1/2 Tsp red pepper (original recipe calls for 1 1/2 Tsp)

  • one medium sized onion, coarsley chopped

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup of cooking wine

  • one package of Morningstar Farms "Meal Starter" steak strips (meat-eaters may wish to use ground beef - I would have preferred to have used griller crumbles which would have alleviated the need for chopping).

  • one 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (original recipe calls for chopped)

Mix the oil, garlic, salt, and red pepper together in a frying pan, heat on medium until the garlic is good and stinky. Then mix in the steak strips and sautee them until soft. Remove the strips onto a cutting board (do not discard the remainder of the oil/garlic/etc mix) and chop them into tiny pieces. Put the onions into the remaining oil, and sautee them until glassy and slightly yellow (I only did this meat-onion shuffle because the steak-strips come frozen and need to be chopped, if you use griller crumbles or beef, I suggest sauteeing the onions first, then mixing in the meat/meat-substitute and continuing until brown).

Mix the "meat", onions and remaining oil in a large pot and add the crushed tomatoes and cooking wine. Bring to a low boil, then cook on "low," covered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally (I'm not sure that it needs to go this long, but that's what I did).

Serve warm over pasta. It's a substantial amount of sauce - more than you would get in a jar. But I tend to be heavy handed with the ladle, so I found it to be perfect for a pound of pasta.

So I now have a good basic sauce. Let the evolution begin!

And to those who tried to teach me to make sauce: "nyaaaa-haaaa!!!" :-)