I love the way Marcella Hazan wrote her recipes:
“The meat must be sauteed just barely long enough to lose its raw colour. It must not brown or it will lose its delicacy. It must be cooked in milk before the tomatoes are added. This keeps the meat creamier and sweeter tasting. It must cook at the merest simmer for a long, long time. The minimum is 3½ hours; 5 is better.”
Note the repeated “must”. For me, the novice cook, 25 years ago – I needed this: no room for self-doubt or second guessing. Marcella told you what to do clearly – but even more importantly – she also told you why you had to do it that way. And when you tasted the food she had helped you cook – you understood why.
Marcella died this week aged 89. And I thought I would celebrate her life by making what is perhaps her most famous recipe: Tomato Sauce. And here’s why: “My mother’s tomato, butter, and onion sauce unfailingly elicits feelings of comfort and well-being. Its ability to wash away fatigue and anxiety is almost miraculous, and its preparation borders on alchemy. Who would think that simply putting tomatoes, a peeled halved onion, butter, and salt in a pot and cooking it with barely an occasional stir until it is reduced, would produce such concentrated goodness? In my freezer there is always a batch, ready to be defrosted and enjoyed in the time it takes to cook some pasta.” the words are by Giuliano Hazan, Marcella’s son. I couldn’t have said it better:
I don’t know what Mama Hazan would say about my use of salted butter (all I had) or the half red/half white onion combo I used (wanted sweetness as the tomatoes were pretty tart) but the result was just as delicious as ever.
p style=”text-align: left;”>For the Sauce
2 pounds/1kg fresh, ripe tomatoes that have been blanched in hot water and peeled
3 cups canned imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
5 tablespoons / 60grams butter
1 medium sweet yellow onion, peeled and cut in half – no chopping required
1+1/4 teaspoons salt
(note: do not be tempted to add or subtract anything the list above. You will only regret it.)
- Put either canned or the skinned fresh tomatoes in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt,
- Cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for at least 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are no longer watery and the mix has thickened to your liking. The fat should have floated free from the tomato. (Don’t rush it. Today mine took 75mins)
- Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion before tossing with pasta.
Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and a peppery rocket side salad (I lace mine with basil leaves), dressed simply with lemon juice and olive oil. Sip whatever pleases on the night.
Freeze any leftover sauce into ice cubes, then pack in plastic bags. It lasts for ages and makes a luxurious base for pizza or, mixed in a with a rich stock, a delectable tomato soup.
From Hazan Family Favorites: Beloved Italian Recipes by Giuliano Hazan.
(Images in the public domain)