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There was no doubt what we would choose for lunch during our visit to the San Remo food market. The markets in Italy are a visual and gastronomic experience. Red, ripe, sweet tomatoes, huge bunches of basil, garlic and fresh olives filled our basket. How better to enjoy a beautiful village but to experience the local markets and fresh food. Next to the bread stand for fresh crusty Italian bread and a stop at the cheese vendor left only one more thing to buy. On the way back home we visited our new friend in the local store to purchase a bottle of wine from the vineyards of Dolceaqua. We were climbing the stairs to our apartment in anticipation of a lovely fresh tomato salad with basil, garlic and olive oil from the local olive groves. This is one of the advantages of renting an apartment rather then staying in a hotel. We were happy and content enjoying our lunch and the view of the village. How better to spend a vacation in a beautiful village experiencing the local markets and fresh food.
If you love tomato sauce as I do, then you are always looking for a variety of ways of preparing it. Although this sauce takes a little cooking time, it is fast and easy to put together and except for tossing from time to time, you don’t have to worry about it much while it is cooking.
The difference in this sauce is that it has a rustic flavor. The skins char a little in cooking and gives it a woodsy aroma.
The quality of the tomatoes is always important in any tomato sauce. If at all possible purchase tomatoes that have ripened on the vine. If this is not possible, make sure that you let them stand out on your counter until they are ready to use. Taking tomatoes from the supermarket to the cooking stage is often not possible in most places except maybe Italy.
Italians are very proud and picky about their tomatoes and don’t believe that they are good enough to eat anywhere else in the world. I’ve had Italians tell me that we can’t possibly make good tomato sauce in the US because we don’t have good tomatoes. Since I have bought most of my tomatoes in Italy, I have to say that the sauce always tastes different then when I made it in the US. I more often will use imported San Marzano canned tomatoes then fresh, but in this case you need fresh tomatoes.
It is important that you ripen your tomatoes before cooking them. Tomatoes should never be stored in the refrigerator because they are sensitive to temperatures below 55ºF. Storage of tomatoes should be about 55º to 60°F. Anything below that will give a bland flavor.
When buying canned tomatoes, I always buy imported San Marzano tomatoes. They are sweeter and less acidic. Cosco sells a 6 lb. can of imported San Marzano tomatoes for under $4. I usually prepare a large pan of sauce and freeze it in meal size portions. Saves a lot of time and I have a meal ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. I always make a simple pomadoro sauce with a little basil and then add other ingredients to it when I want something a little different, like lentils, Prosciutto or ham and peas etc.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Yield: 4 Servings
8 ripe plum or vine tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
2 sprigs basil
1 tablespoon oregano (if you don’t have basil)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small dried red hot pepper (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red or dry white wine
Cut the tomatoes in quarters and put them in a large baking dish (do not remove the seeds or the skins). Roughly chop the garlic and onions and add them to the tomatoes. Put in the basil or the oregano, salt and pepper and toss the ingredients. Add the wine and toss again to be sure that all the ingredients are covered with the herbs. All the ingredients can be roughly chopped because they will be put through a food mill at the end.
Place the baking dish in the oven at 400ºF and cook for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked.
The sauce will have a warm smoky flavor and can be served over any type of pasta.
Note: There is a variety of San Marzano tomatoes produced in the US and elsewhere, but always look for the Italian imported cans.