Friday, October 8, 2010

Simple Red Sauce

This is a quick, simple and versatile red sauce I developed for myself with only a few ingredients that, I believe, are essential and delicious enough to accompany the pasta I cook every week (well, some weeks everyday..:)) I also use this sauce for other Italian dishes, like chicken parmesan or lasagna.

This sauce truly makes use of tomato paste, one of my favorite ingredients and, in my opinion, one of the most underused ones in American cuisine. Tomato paste is concentrated tomato flavor to the fullest in a little can; one tablespoon tomato paste has easily the flavor power of 2 tomatoes. It not only gives great flavor and color to dishes, but it also adds consistency.
The sauce also has its slightly tangy flavor coming both from the tomato paste and the dried basil, and it is ideal for people like me who do not like chunky tomato pieces in their pasta sauce.

Ingredients: (Enough for 1/2 lb. pasta)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 6 oz-can tomato paste (makes about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper (optional)

  • In a saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil, until the butter melts, over medium heat.
  • Add the tomato paste and hot water, stir to dissolve tomato paste (you do not want lumps of paste in your sauce!).
  • Add garlic powder, dried basil, salt and pepper (I personally add 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt and no pepper) and stir to combine.
  • Cover partially and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.
  • Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 min., until the sauce turns from dark red (which is the raw tomato paste color) to a lighter red. (Add more hot water, if you think it's necessary.)
  • Enjoy with your favorite pasta.

Additional notes:
  • You can substitute 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder with 2 cloves of minced fresh garlic, if you want to. Just add the fresh garlic after you heat the oil and butter and saute only for 1 min., until it gets fragrant (not until it's burned!).
  • Some people may find 2 tbsp. butter and oil each too much for this amount of sauce, in that case just add 1 tbsp. of each.
  • The amount of water you are going to use really depends on how thick or thin you like your pasta sauce. That's why I gave a range from 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of hot water. Just experiment with it to achieve the consistency you like. You can also add the water of the pasta you are cooking. (Just remember: Sauce can wait for the pasta, pasta can't wait for the sauce.)
  • The number of pasta servings from a 1 lb-package of pasta is up to how big a pasta lover you are. Some days I cook this sauce along with a whole package of pasta and eat it for all three meals of the day (I know... I'm crazy!..:) So you can double or triple this recipe for more pasta or for other dishes you may want to use.
  • And lastly, you can also make this sauce with canned tomato puree. Instead of a 6 oz-can tomato paste and hot water, just use a 15 oz-can tomato puree. You can add more water if you want to thin out the sauce, but I would not recommend adding more than 1/4 cup hot water; more would make the sauce soupy.

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