Tomatoes were introduced to Europe from the New World by explorers in the 16th century and were dismissed as food originally because they were considered toxic. They were grown as “botanical curiosities” for their flowers, not as food. The climates of Spain and Italy and were good for tomato growing and when they were discovered to be tasty, and not killers, they were widely used in Southern European dishes by the 17th century.
The final and (IMHO) the best sauce mère is tomato or red sauce. I think it’s the best because it has the best and richest flavor, is easy to make, it’s versatile and freezes well. For this post, I will just repost the red gravy recipe from a few months ago here. I also happen to really like tomato sauces.
This sauce is more than just “spaghetti sauce”. Its flexibility allows us to cook roundeye steaks in it or to use it on top of meatloaves, pannéed meats, po-boy, fish, sausage and, yes, even pasta. In fact, I make this for pasta sauce instead of plain marinara, I find its richness to be beyond compare.
1/2 cup olive oil
1 whole bulb of garlic, with each toe sliced in half lengthwise
3 bay leaves
1 bell pepper, diced fine
1 cup onion, diced fine
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups canned tomato purée
6 ounces tomato paste
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons creole seasoning
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (Italian or sweet)
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
In a 2-quart saucepan or stockpot, heat the olive oil, sliced garlic cloves, and 2 of the bay leaves. Cook garlic slices to achieve browning on both sides (over medium heat), cooking for about 2 to 3 minutes and stirring often. Remove garlic from pan, you can toss this. Turn down heat to medium-low and add the onions to the pan and sautee until edges start to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes and stirring constantly.
Add the tomato paste and cook with the onions until the color deepens to a red mahogany color; it gets somewhat sticky, it will build up your forearm muscles. This step is important, so be patient! You want to carmelize the entire mixture; this is where almost all of the flavor for the sauce will come from. When done, add the third bay leaf and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer; here is where you will adjust your seasonings… I like mine on the spicier side so I actually add 2 tablespoons of creole seasoning rather than 2 teaspoons. Maintain a very low simmer and cook for about three hours and stirring frequently. The whole house will smell delicious for days after making this. Makes 6 cups and freezes well.
To make a Bolognese type sauce: add 2 lbs. cooked and drained ground meat of your choice… the most common seems to be half ground beef/half ground pork or ground italian sausage. My grandmother would make meatballs bigger than your head from a ground meat/seasoned bread crumb mixture, cook those and then add them to the finished sauce.
A few of the children of your basic red sauce are Creole Sauce , Barbecue sauce and Salsa.
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