Monday, July 30, 2007

A Pot Full of Sauciness

There are approximately 6,600,000,000 people currently occupying Earth.

Of those, 6,599,999,999 have their own recipe for tomato sauce.

(The lone un-saucer is my sister, who prefers Prego from a jar and wouldn’t eat an onion if it was holding a Howitzer [a gunion?] to her head, begging to be devoured.)

Tomato sauce is a wonderful, aromatic fact of life – a healthy, delectable way of dressing up pasta while incorporating valuable vitamins and minerals into a diet. Though there are infinite adaptations using wine, seasonal vegetables, pork fat, olives, and much, much more, many sauces seem to be variations on the following:

1. Tomatoes, onions, olive oil, garlic, herbs.

2. Tomatoes, onions, olive oil, garlic, herbs, soffrito.

My understanding is soffrito (or mirepoix, or the 2:1:1 onions to carrots to celery ratio basic to lots of Italian and French cooking) gives tomato sauce depth, a touch of sweetness, and possibly magical powers. I love Lidia Bastianich’s version, since it’s rich, chunky, and full of pretty colors. (Unfortunately, she also uses ¼ cup of olive oil, which drives the fat content up considerably. In the near future, I’m going to try making it with half the oil, and will report back on what happens.)

Sometimes lower in fat and calories, tomato sauces without the soffrito can be equally as luscious, though they may have added sugar or herbs for flavor. This versatile rendering, a chunky, basil-y adaptation from Cooking Light, is one of those, and maintains its scrumptiousness without too many bells and whistles. Use it on penne, eggplant parm, bread, cheesecake, peanut butter and jelly – whatever suits your fancy.

P.S. It ranks a proven 6,340,662,940 out of 6,599,999,999 on a global scale. I checked.

Light Tomato Sauce
7 servings – ½ cup per serving
Adapted from Cooking Light.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-oz. cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained
2/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/8 tsp black pepper, divided

1) In a medium pot or small Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost tender. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and onion is tender.

2) Crush the canned tomatoes over the pot by hand, making sure you remove any chunks of stem. Pour in juice leftover in can. Bring everything to a boil.

3) Drop heat to low and simmer for about 80 or 90 minutes, until sauce is thick and/or the consistency you like.

4) Kill the heat and stir in the basil, salt, and pepper. Eat immediately with pasta, or refrigerate overnight to let flavors meld. You can freeze the leftovers, too.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
78 calories, 2 g fat, $0.50

1 Tbsp olive oil: 120 calories, 14 g fat, $0.08
1 cup finely chopped onion: 56 calories, 0 g fat, $0.18
4 garlic cloves, minced: 20 calories, 0 g fat, $0.20
2 28-oz. cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained: 350 calories, 0 g fat $2.00
2/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil: negligible calories and fat, $0.99
3/4 tsp salt, divided: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1/8 tsp black pepper, divided: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
TOTAL: 546 calories, 14 g fat, $3.48
PER SERVING (TOTAL/7): 78 calories, 2 g fat, $0.50
P.P.S. Apologies for no post on Thursday and Friday last week. There was camping to be done in Ohio.

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