Mother’s tomato sauce (cir. 1970’s)
Tomato sauce is a main staple to any kitchen menu. You’ll find it has so many purposes for you. From the obvious saucing up pasta, to a topper for rice, or a base for a meat sauce or a fine ratatouille. Yet, I find it’s the one thing I can’t stand when I order in restaurants. I am often disappointed and left wondering “How can something so simple, go so wrong?”
Do we have our orbitofrontal cortex to thank for this? This is the part of our brain, right above our eyes that gives us the strong link between food, tastes, and emotions. Being able to recognize a taste from 30 years ago is quite simply amazing! When you have those encounters, it makes you love the pure essence of food, and life itself. So, getting back to my theory, I believe the basic red tomato sauce is an acquired taste from childhood. In my case, I still have the taste of my Nonna’s sauce deeply imprinted in my brain. If that wasn’t enough, I had my mom’s great sauce to back up and reinforce the do’s and don’t(s) in the world of red sauce. There can be some discrepancies along the way. For example, my sister insists that our Nonna’s spaghetti sauce-had a dash of cinnamon, but I don’t remember this. I recognize my mother’s sauce just by the aroma when you walk in the kitchen, and now, my kids have a distinct tongue for a good sauce, something we’ll call a heritage-generational thing. Practice does make perfect, but first you need a good recipe. Do some connective cooking for your orbitofrontal cortex!
- 1 cup onions usually 1 large onion chopped
- 1/2 cup carrots a fine chop, or fine grate
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1 Tbs olive oil or more if desired for sauteeing onions and garlic
- 1 can Roma tomatoes diced is preferred
- 1 Tbs sugar optional, depending if your from Northern or Southern Italy.
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar also optional, or use balsamic
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 tsp sea salt remember your quality sea salt
- 1 Tbs rosemary fresh, depending on your love of the herbs, I use 1 Tbs each
- 1 Tbs oregano fresh
- 1/2 lbs ground meat fresh, optional of course. you could also add diced bacon, or use italian sausage
- Sautee over medium heat the onion & garlic until translucent and giving off a nice aroma. Cook over very low heat, the onion, celery, carrot, bacon if used and garlic in the butter and olive oil for 10 minutes, then turn the heat up so that they brown lightly. Add the rest of the ingredients, and bring to the boil. Don’t cover the pan, but keep the sauce bubbling and busy for at least 15 minutes. It will reduce to a rich stew. No need to stir.
- Add your meat and cook until well combined with garlic and onions.
- Add herbs and salt. Season to taste.
- Add tomatoes. I usually add a can of tomatoes, then dice up whatever fresh tomatoes I have in the house.
- Add your acidic liquids (vinegar, wine), and your sugar
- Bring entire mixture to a low boil, then turn down to a simmer, cover with a lid and let it cook down. The desired amount of texture and color is determined by you. I usually do 2 hours if I have the time. Otherwise a minimum of 30 min.
- Serve over pasta, on rice, or use for dipping fresh bread. Enjoy! This sauce can be stored in the fridge for a day or two.