I’ve been meaning to write and I’ve thought about it a lot. I want to tell you about the herb/flower frittata, the courgette carbonara, tzatziki, nothing fancy but just simple things that have been on heavy rotation in my Toronto kitchen (though the current dessert at the moment on replay is ready for you here – cherry clafoutis). I promise I will tell you about these things soon, it has just been so damn busy getting back into the routine of things and managing my new freelance life which is exciting but often overwhelming. This past Monday, one of my three days off in the whole month of July, I finally took a moment to acknowledge my garden. When I did, I discovered so many ripe tomatoes, I started to pick and it didn’t end, it just kept going and going… When I bought my tomato plants in May, I bought seven different varieties of tomatoes, with each variety coming with two plants, so fourteen tomato plants has been keeping my kitchen full. While I have mostly been eating my tomatoes, just quartered with a sprinkling of salt and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and sometimes even a sprig of fresh basil, the tomatoes reminded me of a recipe I wanted to share with you that I learnt from my Sicilian friend Mario.
Mario and I cooked a five course Sicilian meal together at the end of April in Rome, he taught me how to make this sauce for our Pasta alla Norma. I loved it’s absolute simplicity, while I am a big fan of Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce of just butter, onion, tomatoes, salt, this recipe is also very special. Mario learnt this method from his grandmother and he said it is just one of those sauces that she makes every week of the year. This sauce is different than a lot of tomato sauces, as it cooks with absolutely no fat until it is finished. It just lets the pure flavours of the tomatoes reduce, concentrate and marry with the onions and basil. I love the way this sauce tastes and the philosophy behind it, just letting three ingredients do their thing. Olive oil is added but only once the sauce is finished cooking, which also lets the olive oil keep it’s best raw qualities.
3 kg ripe cherry tomatoes or any nice ripe tomatoes, washed, stems removed
500 grams quartered onions
Small handful of fresh basil leaves
In a large pot, add the tomatoes, onions , basil, a good sprinkling of salt and a small amount of water to just get the cooking going. Cook, uncovered over medium heat until everything softens and starts to reduce into a sweet sauce. The tomatoes will burst, releasing their juices, the onions will start to soften adding sweetness to balance the acidity of the tomatoes, the basil will wilt and add it’s liquorice notes. Cook the sauce for approximately 30 minutes or until it reaches a nice tomato sauce consistency.
Pass through a food mill to remove tomato skins of if you do not own a food mill, do not fret. Take the pot off the heat and give it a quick buzz and pass through a sieve to remove the skins.
Adjust the sauce accordingly to your preference with salt and sugar, I give no measurements for this as it this will be different every time as no tomatoes are the same. When I last made this tomatoes sauce, my tomatoes were so naturally sweet, no sugar was necessary.
Serve this suace with your favourite choice of pasta or as the base to pizza. I ate mine with spaghetti topped with grated ricotta salata and a healthy drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.