Making a basic tomato sauce yourself means more flavour and less preservatives than canned or jarred. It's also easier to modify to your personal taste. It's great to have on hand for last-minute meals and it stores well in the freezer. Chef Rodney Bowers takes us step by step as he creates his version of a classic.
According to Rodney, the perfect tomato for a sauce would be a sweet local field tomato, preferably a Roma (also called paste tomatoes). They have fewer sides, thicker meatier walls, and less water - which means thicker sauce in less cooking time! A good juicy beefsteak tomato would do in a pinch as well.
Rodney used canned tomatoes from San Marzano, Italy. They're sweetest romas around due to the volcanic ash in the soil and the hot, sunny weather. He also used a coarse Maldon salt for flavour, but any natural sea salt will do.
Fresh basil is wonderful in any pasta dish due to its fresh, strong flavour. The stems can be cleaned and tied, then used to flavour the sauce - just tie the stems to the handle of the pot for easy removal afterward!
For the noodles, spaghetti or a short noodle like penne is the classic choice for a basic tomato-and-pasta dish.
Rodney uses a virgin olive oil for cooking. The L'Aspromontano Virgin Oil he used on the show is made from Carolea and Ottobratica Olives, harvested later in the season at a more mature stage of development. As a result, the oil has a noticeably heavier texture with sweet earthy tones and a pronounced traditional olive flavour. Well-suited as a condiment for hearty vegetables such as broccoli, rapini, brussel sprouts, and spinach, it's also very useful as a base for all kinds of stew, soups, sautes and even for stir-frying.
Rodney uses extra-virgin olive oil for finishing. The oil he used on the show was a blend of the oils yielded by the Carolea and Ottobratica Olive varieties. The combination of the two types of Olives blended together allows for the bitter and spicy notes to be contained and balanced, creating an incredibly smooth taste. It is especially recommended that it be served with grilled or steamed meats and vegetable, shellfish, and any dish that incorporates cheese.
Rodney's Tomato Sauce
(serves 6 - 8)
100ml good virgin olive oil or use extra virgin
1 L (2 med) sweet white or Spanish Onion, diced rather fine
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
50g chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
Basil stalks, cleaned, washed and tied
2 celery stalks peeled and shredded
1 carrot, finely shredded
2 x 1 liter canned whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
Salt (to taste - the water should taste like the ocean)
Heat the olive oil, then add the onion, cooking for a few minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic afterward and cook for another minute or two.
Add the thyme, basil, carrot, celery and bay leaf and cook 5 minute, until the celery and carrot is quite soft.
Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, skim off any froth, and continuously stir. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until thick. Salt to taste. Serve immediately over hot noodles, refrigerate or freeze for future use.