Monday, February 1, 2010

Almost summer.

I'm a sucker for a change in season. I love the first crisp evenings of autumn, the puffy breezes of early spring, and even the first day or two of summer's sweltering heat. And I truly love the frigid cold of winter. I love bundling up in my coat and scarf, pulling on my gloves, and heading out into a world whose edges seem somehow more sharply defined than in warmer weather.

But when winter's doldrums descend, I start to miss summer's bounty in earnest. I crave tomatoes and corn and berries; I yearn for bunches of peonies and dahlias, and I dream of ice cream and cold coffee. And while I've found frozen corn to be a decent, craving-sating substitute for its fresh counterpart, I've never been a huge fan of canned tomatoes. They've always seemed a bit cloying to me, somehow lacking in the earthy, muddy flavor that makes their fresh brethren so delicious.

Finally, though, I think I've found a reason to keep canned tomatoes in the pantry. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen's post about Marcela Hazan's simple, winter-friendly tomato sauce, I'm now prepared to invest in multiple cans of San Marzano tomatoes.

The recipe is the epitome of ease; you open the can of tomatoes and dump them into a three-quart pot along with the better part of a stick of butter and a halved onion. Turn the heat to medium, simmer for about an hour - and you're done. You should stir it every once in a while, and don't forget to use the back of your spoon to mush the increasingly tender tomatoes against the side - it's what passes for pureeing in this recipe.

I disagree with Deb on one point - I think the sauce profits a good deal from a modest sprinkling of Parmesan cheese; it adds to the creaminess already going on, and adds a funky note to things that really gets the party started.

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions
Adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking

28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano are the best!)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy, 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until drops of fat float free of the tomatoes.

Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Serves four.


laura said...

i have been wanting to try this forever. now it is really moving up the list. and i'm sure i'll be in the parmesan cheese camp too. really, it is just hard to do without.

Nicholas said...

I've several jars of tomatoes I canned at the close of this summer past that would be perfect for this!

Meg Blocker said...

@laura: Exactly! Why would anyone skip the cheese when it's right there...and so good?

@Nicholas: Oh my gosh, those will be even better than San Marzano! I think I might have to have you do a guest post on canning when we have fresh veggies in season again...

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