Thursday, September 18, 2008

Make it Quick: 5 Minute Tomato Sauce

I love a good tomato sauce on pasta. The simpler the better. Earlier this year, I tried Delia Smith's sauce, made from fresh tomatoes. It is easy and delicious, but takes a lot of stove top simmering until it is done. A perfect cold weather recipe.

Cookbook author Heidi Swanson, of the vegetarian recipe blog 101 Cookbooks, makes some extravagant claims about the superiority of this recipe for tomato sauce. Not only that, she asserts that it can be thrown together in 5 minutes' time.

Cooking Notes:
1. My crushed tomatoes, Hunt's Organic, were more of a puree in consistency. I would have preferred a less smooth texture.
2. I had a hard time getting the olive oil to incorporate with the tomato.
3. I used the zest from a very small lemon, and it was enough.
4. My sauce had a generous measuring of red pepper flakes, probably closer to 2 tsp., and had quite a kick.
5. The recipe is very quick; with the measuring and chopping, I'd say it took me 10-12 minutes. Can be made while the pasta water is coming to a boil.
6. I'd recommend that you zest your lemon away from the sauce pan. If you drop the lemon in the sauce while zesting, the sauce will splatter all over your kitchen. Trust me on this one.

The Verdict:

This was a fantastic addition to my busy-day-dinner repertoire. I served it plain, over whole wheat spaghetti, with an arugula and parmesan salad and hot crusty Tuscan bread. My husband gives the sauce a 9 out of 10. I agree. Next time I will use crushed tomatoes with a more rustic texture.

I've frozen the remainder for future uses. mmm, food in the freezer is like money in the bank!

I can see why Heidi says this sauce "is the little black dress of my cooking repertoire." I will make it again and again, but I'm not sure it will completely supplant Delia's sauce (or my mother's tomato sauce recipe, for that matter). Also, I want to try Chez Pim's 15-Minute Tomato Sauce.


Lisa magicsprinkles said...

I love quick! Thanks for testing this out for us. The cooks notes are priceless. The lemon thing sounds like something that would happen in my kitchen!

Cathy said...

This sounds great! I am going to make it and then compare it to Mark Bittman's version of quick & easy tomato sauce. That's my reigning favorite, but I am always open to a new possibility! It's survival of the fittest (or should that be "quickest, easiest and tastiest?") in the tomato sauce world! Incidentally, Bittman's recipe calls for whole tomatoes, which he then has you crush with a fork or your hands. Maybe if you tried whole tomatoes instead of crushed in Swanson's recipe, you would attain your preferred consistency. Just a thought! Thanks for sharing this - I'm eager to give it a try!

Nancy/n.o.e said...

Oh, Cathy, how I love a taste test! Let me know how it turns out. I checked Google for Bittman's recipe but it wasn't readily available. But what you suggest may be just the ticket. Basically, it sounds like it would be making my own crushed tomatoes by brute force - or with a fork. Interesting...

Audrey said...

Your dinner looks so good! Another thought? I make a quick pasta sauce (from Cooking light) with canned diced tomatoesw. I usually buy Muir Glen, but other companies make "petite" diced tomatoes that are about the size of peas. Very chic!

Cathy said...

Nancy (and my apologies in advance for the long comment!), Mark Bittman's recipe is from "How to Cook Everything," page 130. It is actually quite similar to Heidi Swanson's recipe. Here goes:
3T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed or one small onion, minced
1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
salt/pepper to taste
(1) Warm 2T olive oil with garlic in medium skillet over medium low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden
(2) Drain tomatoes and remove seeds if you wish to do so. Crush them with fork or your hands and add to skillet, along with salt & pepper. Raise heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and mixture becomes "saucy," about 10 minutes. Remove garlic if you like. Stir in remaining 1T olive oil, taste for salt and add more if necessary.

In the cookbook, he goes on to list 12 or 13 variations on this basic sauce. The first time I made this, I was amazed that what amounts to a can of tomatoes and some garlic could make a sauce this good and fresh tasting. I am sure that Heidi Swanson's recipe will create similar amazement for me (I think I might be easily amazed, though).

Kana said...

Tomato sauce is so flavourful this time of the year. I have canned some of mine.

Nancy/n.o.e said...

I never thanked you for typing the Bittman recipe in here, Cathy. I was out of town then, and just now remembered that your provided this yummy-sounding recipe. I do think it's similar, and I'd probably add some of the red pepper flakes because we like things spicy. Oh, and maybe the lemon zest. Well, combining the recipes might be just the thing! The whole-tomato approach should give me the texture I missed in this version.