Some of my fondest memories from childhood involve food...duh. While I do enjoy my memories of digging out the insides of cafeteria bagels and filling them with Nacho Cheese Doritos (yes it's a thing I did in middle school and I'm not at all ashamed of little Kenny living his food truth), one of my favorite memories is of my mother's Sunday spaghetti sauce. She would start it early Sunday morning, whipping out the cans of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, chopping onions (which immediately sent my sister and I sprinting back towards our rooms to avoid the unbearable onion tears), and mixing her brew that would sit on the stove top all day, tempting us until dinner that night. Sometimes the sauce would stand alone, and sometimes the pot held meatballs, sausages, pork chops, hardboiled eggs, a partridge in a pear tree, what-have-you, that would steep in the sauce stealing and giving flavor.
All that being said, this is not my mother's sauce. However, something about making this, and the aromas that are produced from this concoction, always makes me think of her spending her time off tending to sauce all day. What better way to spend a day, or a life for that matter. I hope the people who eat and make this sauce feel as comforted and cared for as I did sitting down to my mother's Sunday meal.
*A note on tomatoes. I have spent my entire life spending SO long searching for perfect, firm, unbruised tomatoes in the grocery store. When you are looking to bake or cook down your tomatoes, that is a HUGE waste of time and reveals your own nasty biases against less than perfect tomatoes. Slightly more ripe tomatoes actually carry more flavor and, by using less than visually desirable tomatoes before they go completely to waste sitting on the grocery store shelves, you are helping out the environment as well by reducing waste.
OVEN-ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE
3 lbs. ripe plum tomatoes wine to deglaze
salt and pepper 1/2 cup parsley (chopped)
1-2 Tbsp sugar 2 Tbsp basil (chopped)
2 Tbsp oil (olive or vegetable) 1 Tbsp thyme
1 medium yellow onion (chopped) 1 tsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic (minced) pinch of nutmeg
2 anchovy fillets 1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut all your tomatoes in half, place them skin side down on a parchment lined baking tray, sprinkle them all with a pinch of salt, and pinch of pepper, and a few pinches of sugar to help bring out the natural sweetness in the tomatoes. Roast them in the oven for 35-40 minutes.
*This roasting time is more then sufficient to add extra flavor to your tomato sauce, however if you have more time to spare, try leaving them in for 60-75 minutes for a more pronounced flavor. Whatever timing you use, make sure that your tomatoes are ready to be used by the time you get to step 4 of this recipe.
2. Meanwhile, put your oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once it has heated up, add in your chopped onion and cook for two minutes, allowing the onions to only just start to become translucent. Then add your garlic, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper and cook for two more minutes.
3. Take the two anchovy fillets, mash them with a fork, and then add them to your onion and garlic mixture. Then add in your tomato paste. Once this mixture has had a minute to cook together, add a splash of wine to your pan to deglaze. (since you are only using enough to deglaze the pan, you can honestly use any wine you already have on hand. I used a Pinot Grigio because that is generally what I drink and have around all the time).
4. Remove your tomatoes from the oven and carefully transfer them, and any juices left on your baking tray, into your skillet. Then add all the fresh and dry herbs. Allow this mixture to cook for ten minutes, allowing some of the liquid from the tomatoes to evaporate. At that point add in a pinch of nutmeg to bring out the flavor of the roasted tomatoes. Then add in the butter and remove from the heat.
5. If you like a chunky sauce then congratulations, you're done! Go make some linguine and dig into this sauce. I like smoother sauces so at this stage, transfer batches of the sauce into your food processor and then, once blended to your satisfaction, transfer the smooth sauce to a sauce pot.
6. Once all your sauce is blended and transferred to a pot, put it back on the stove over a medium-low/low heat to simmer (covered if you're going to simmer it for longer than 30 minutes) for as long as you can before you need it. This will help the sauce thicken up a little bit as liquid begins to evaporate and will help the flavors marry and intensify.
ANYTHING YOU WANT! Although I use this in my Deep Dish Pizza recipe, you can use this for Sunday spaghetti, your dressing for stuffed peppers, in place of tomato soup with grilled cheese, or meatball grinders. You could even leave it chunky and in your skillet, make some wells in the sauce, crack eggs in there and bake it up for a bootleg version of Shakshuka.
Go get 'em tiger!