Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nice, but Not Nana's

My wonderful MIL gifted me last year with Marcella Hazan's classic Essentials of Italian Cooking.  She knows I love to cook, especially Italian food, so this was a perfect choice.  There's so many wonderful recipes in this volume (including the incredible Chickpea with Arborio Rice soup -- awesomeness in a bowl), but one recipe I blew right past was the Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion.

Tomatoes with butter?  Really?  Maybe I am influenced by my grandmother's cooking style, which being Sicilian is heavily olive oil based (butter is more prominent in northern Italy); maybe it was just simply that this was not the way Nana made her spaghetti sauce (tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and oregano, olive oil, maybe meat or maybe not, but always simmered for hours and hours on the stove until deep and rich and full of complex flavor and an aroma that permeates the neighborhood) and no one makes sauce as good as my Nana did.  But after this recipe made the rounds of the blogosphere and was declared the Best.Tomato.Sauce.Ever, I figured I'd give it a go.

Well, it was certainly different, and I have to give it up and say it was tasty.  It was not necessarily quick (about 45 minutes start to finish), but not laborious either.  You open a can of tomatoes, halve and peel an onion, plop in a wad of butter, toss in a bit of salt, and simmer gently with an occasional stir of the pot. 

The onion gave the sauce just a tiny bit of a bite (perhaps my onion was too strong), and the butter mellowed tomatoes and gave the sauce a silkier texture than typically found in tomato sauces.  Interestingly, this sauce did not make good leftovers (and what good is a sauce if it's not good left over?).  Overall, I'd much prefer a traditional sauce (as my family's traditions go), or a fresh sauce where the tomatoes can shine in their starring role.  

So, not the Best.Sauce.Ever.  That honor still goes to Nana.

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