I’ve been meaning to post these for a while now. Does anyone remember that 80s sit-com, The Golden Girls? Does anyone remember Sofia, Dorothy’s mother, who always seemed to be stirring a pot of pasta sauce? (It was such a fixture on the show, her pot of pasta sauce, a bit like the foam rubber chocolate cake that was always on the counter in Who’s The Boss?… anyone remember that?)
Anyway, thanks to the screenwriters of that show, for a long time I believed that fresh pasta sauce had to be a labour of love, and a long, slow one that you slaved over for hours. I had this idea that there was some magical moment in summer where there’d be an abundance of tomatoes, and that was when you were supposed to cook and bottle or freeze tons of the stuff. I never did it, because the reality of frozen food is that it’s so unappealing one seldom feels like defrosting it and using it. (Well, I speak for myself here.)
Let me just say this: those screenwriters don’t cook. Fresh pasta sauce is best made… well, fresh and fast. Here are the variations I like best and make most often. Next time I make them, I’ll augment this post with photographs.
Fresh roast tomato sauce
What you need:
6-8 tomatoes, any kind you like. Roma tomatoes work beautifully, and of course gorgeous organic sun-ripened anything is best, but bland old supermarket tomatoes will work too.
1 large onion, roughly chopped into 8.
1-2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
a generous pouring of olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and about a tablespoon of sugar
some fresh thyme, if you have it (optional)
What to do:
Toss it all in an oven dish and roast for about an hour at 180 degrees.
Then blitz it with a stick blender. And that is your sauce. Best fresh tomato sauce ever.
You can use this as a basis for anything pasta-related – I use it for the tomato layers in lasagne.
For a super child-friendly meal, toss it with pasta screws and lots of grated cheese.
If you want it a bit more potently tomato-ey, you can augment it with some passata (strained crushed tomatoes e.g. Pomi in a box)
With some roasted black mushrooms and a splash of cream, it makes an awesome fungi neri sauce.
You can fry some thin slices of aubergine (melanzane), or sweet peppers, or courgettes and add those too.
With some steamed clams it makes a mean vongole sauce.
You get the idea…
And in case that wasn’t awesome enough for one rainy day, here’s another:
Grilled baby tomatoes and feta
Take as many punnets of baby tomatoes as you can find. Toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and some sugar. Place the lot on a baking tray and roast under a hot grill, until they are sweet, releasing juice, and blistering and burning just slightly under the heat. (You’ll need to shake them around a lot and watch that they don’t burn too fast.) Then throw some chopped feta on top and put it under the grill for half a minute or so, just to let the feta soften a bit. (Goat cheese would work too here.) Then scrape the lot, especially all the juice onto pasta of your choice. Awesomeness!!!