Our House Sauce Recipe
This is more of a process than a recipe. It can be quick or slow. If it is quick (<30 min, while you are largely doing other things, like boiling pasta), it is better than jar sauce. If it is slow (up to 4 hours, while you are largely doing other things, like napping), it is really super lovely. It is infinitely flexible. At its purest, it has 3 ingredients, but it can be dressed up however you’d like to suit your meal. It can be large or small (I’ve made this with one garlic clove and one can of tomatoes and I have made this with a head of garlic and 8 cans of tomatoes).
In a medium sauce pan, add enough mild olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan to about ¼ inch deep. Over gentle heat, fry two whole garlic cloves until they are tan and blistery and smell nice. The slower you can do this, the better. But if you only have a few minutes, crush the clove under a chef’s knife and turn the heat up a little. The only really important thing is never to burn the garlic. Because burned garlic tastes awful. But you knew that.
Remove the garlic and tip two 28oz/880g cans of whole roma tomatoes into the pan and bring to a simmer. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Leave this to simmer for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, but keep the heat low and don’t let the bottom burn. (And if the bottom does burn, for the love of god just leave it and don’t churn the burny bits up into the unburned sauce.)
Toss with good quality nicely cooked pasta. Drink with a lovely red Italian.
Tonight’s Adaptation, as an example:
To adapt this recipe for octopus and squid, I fried off finely diced onion and fennel in the oil after removing the garlic and before adding the tomatoes. Once they were nice and fragrant and soft (10-15 min) I added a squeeze of anchovy paste and the canned tomatoes. After another hour of simmering, I added chopped capers. I gently fried 4 squid bodies in a skillet and when nearly done (just curled up), chucked them in the sauce and put the spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water. While waiting for the spaghetti, I fried off the baby octopus garnish and popped them on top of the pile of pasta. (“Fried off” is a Britishism and I kind of like it. Isn’t sautéed a little overly precise for just throwing something in a hot skillet with some oil?). The same process can be used to doctor with nearly anything. Just consider whether it needs to be softened with the garlic and onions (fennel, celery, leeks), simmered with the tomatoes (spinach, clams) or cooked separately and added in at the end (mushrooms). For bacon, I would brown it in the beginning and keep the fat to fry the garlic. Add the bacon back in with the tomatoes but keep some for garnish. Because everyone likes a little extra bacon.