Monday, December 6, 2010

eat; my famous pasta sauce


I grew up with pasta sauce and espresso coffee running through my veins. From as early as i can remember, my family would get together at the end of summer to all par take in the ritual of creating sauce for the year to come.

Everyone had a job to do with the 20 or so wooden crates of tomatoes my dad brought home from the local market. My sister and dad would wash out the long neck beer bottles we collected over the year, with bottle brushes in hand. I can still hear the sounds the brushes would make against the glass, brushing and scrubbing them clean, with the metal handle crunching and sliding against the necks of the bottles on their way in and out in an almost percussive beat and the sound of the water being poured out of each one, in long drawn out gulps. They would then turn them upside down, leaning one against each other to dry in the sun. 

My mum and brother had the job of washing the tomatoes which would annoyingly float in the big white bucket of water, seemingly in an act of rebellion against what they knew their fate would be.  As if choreographed in a dance, my mum and brother would help each other pick up a crate, one on each side, placing it up against the side of the bucket and then tip it,  watching as the tomatoes tumbled over each other, cascading into their awaiting bath. I always wanted this job only because I wanted to create big splashes of water as the tomatoes tumbled into their bath and be covered by the water they pushed aside. Never did happen. I think my mum knew I would create havoc!

Because I was the littlest, my job would be to simply pop a few leaves of fresh green basil into each bottle awaiting to be filled with the juice of the tomatoes. The rows seemed to be never ending as the brown bottles would all be lined up, like soldiers at attention, on every table we could get our hands on; from folding camp tables to make shift, two planks of wood type tables. With a gentle push of encouragement by my tiny fingers through the necks of the bottles, I would watch as the green basil leaves made their journey to the bottles bottom. Seeing them struggling to maintain their intense green colour as they collapsed and surrendered at the bottom, engulfed by the brown light shining through, always felt like a sad ending for those poor basil leaves. 

Once our prep jobs were done, we would all collectively hover around the machine that would squeeze out the juice from the tomatoes, spitting out their skins to one side. The machine made a rhythmic sound churning constantly, not ever waiting for a second for the next lot. We all took turns at tossing big handfuls of tomatoes into the top and watching the juice collect into an awaiting bucket. My mum would be the pourer of the sauce into each individual bottle with an aluminum saucepan and a blue plastic funnel, while my dad stood ready with golden bottle tops and his strength, to close them up ready for the boiling. Their fate was sealed and they would be gently placed into an overlapping pattern within their 'grave like' 44 gallon drum that would transform them into our pasta sauce.

By the end of the days making, we would all be covered in sauce, scratching away at the dried up remnants of tomato on our skin, whilst mum would roast vegies and meat on the fire under the barrel that housed our days work, bubbling away cooking the sauce within each bottle.  We would occasionally get the fright of our lives as a bottle exploded from the pressure. It didn't happen every year but the anticipation was always there that we might just be frightened out of our wits at any moment. 

My mum still does make a very small amount each year to this day (i think more for the sake of reminiscing about those days) with my brother joining in while they bond over this special practice that is now becoming obsolete within the modern day Italian family.

In those days, Australian/Italians had no choice but to make their own food as buying a bottle of pasta sauce was simply not an option. Now days, the variety is in abundance but i still enjoy making my sauce from scratch when tomato's are in season, rather than opening up a jar. Maybe it is my way of holding onto my childhood memory of making sauce.

The following recipe is really basic but the flavours are amazing and i guarantee, you'll never buy a jar of already made sauce again!

What you need;
1 420g can of peeled whole tomato 
2-3 cloves of garlic, diced finely (I use organic and they are always smaller so I use 3)
1 birdseye chili, chopped (if you like it hot that is!)
3 Tbl of olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
4 basil leaves, torn into small pieces 

It's all in the canned tomatoes!!!! If you can get your hands on Annalisa brand of peeled tomatoes, do yourself a favour!!! Otherwise, any organic brand will be fine. You can get whole or chopped. I prefer whole and will direct this recipe to using whole peeled tomatoes.

Pour the oil into a frypan on med to high heat. Once hot, throw in the chopped garlic (and chili). Cook the garlic for a minute and then throw in the can of tomato. Add water to the can, filling it up to  just under a third of the way and swirl it around to clean off the remaining sauce within it. Pour this into the sauce and let it simmer for about 10 minutes on a med to low heat.

After 10 minutes, if using whole tomatoes, gently press against each tomato to break them up. I like my sauce reasonably chunky but you can press them until you find a consistency you like. Add salt.

The sauce should be ready within about 20 mins. Once you turn the heat off, toss through the torn basil leaves. NEVER EVER COOK BASIL!!!!! Whenever using basil, always throw them in after the heat has been turned off. The flavour will be more intense and create a freshness to any dish.

Pour over a good quality pasta, freshly grating a good quality Parmesan and serve with a great bottle of wine!

I have used a 420g can for this recipe which will cover enough pasta for about 2-3 people. If you need to cook more, simply double or triple the recipe. Easy! This sauce can be frozen for use at another time.

I use this recipe for lots of things including my vegie lasagna and pizzas. If you are wanting to use it for such things, i suggest adding a little more water so it will be more runny and spending the time to break up the tomatoes so they are not so chuncky.

Buon Appetito!

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