February 05, 2010

Depth and Breadth

One can make sauce, a nice basic tomato sauce. But it need not taste basic. With a little coaxing and just the right ingredients, deep flavor can arrange itself. You'll find it clinging to the back of your favorite wooden spoon. When you've turned away for just a moment to rinse a dish or dry the counter, the sauce that's been simmering on low will try to get your attention by creating a leopard skin pattern of bubbles. You'll stop what you're doing, rush to the stove and stir...gently. That lovely red will have pulled away from the center of the pan, congregating along the perimeter. You'll guide your wooden spoon around and around, through and through, until you've just blended the olive oil back in.

Time will pass slowly, your involvement will be small but great. Just pay attention. Eventually, what you've brought together will stay together. The texture and density will be just right. You'll take one final taste, turn off the flame, and smile.

This morning I chose to coat a shallow pan with a pool of extra virgin olive oil.

I milled two cans of San Marzano's.

I finely grated a small carrot.

Diced a small yellow onion.

Sliced two large cloves of garlic.

Chopped a small bunch of fresh thyme.

I threw the onion and garlic into the pan of olive oil and turned on a low and slow flame.

When the onion and garlic turned a nice golden (about 10 minutes), I added the carrot and thyme. Still on a low and slow flame, she cooked.

After a nice softening of the carrot (about 5 minutes), I poured in the milled tomatoes. Careful to prevent splatter by using the back of a wooden spoon.

The flame remained low and slow all the while (about 30 minutes). I added salt. I paid attention. I stirred. I ignored. I tasted. The flavor blossomed nicely. And thyme...thyme? Thyme. It surrendered itself beautifully. So quiet and unassuming. It lingered on my tongue long after. Herbal, dense and inspiring. The carrot and onion sweetened, the salt drew out everything that is right and good.

Yes, another red sauce.

I cannot take credit, though. All thanks go to Mario Batali for this nice basic tomato sauce. Both Mario Batali Simple Italian Food and The Babbo Cookbook showcase this recipe.

When the dinner hour(s) arrives we'll set to boil rigatoni, from family De Cecco. It will cling ever so nicely, trapping itself  in the pastas center as we dress the naked, al dente rigatoni with a few ladles of sauce. Each bowl will get a few heaping spoonfuls of the dressed pasta and and another kiss of red before that final dusting of Parmesan.

It's such a happy place for me. I sit here and reflect as I pull this post to a close. I'm anxious for dinner.


  1. I love how you make what you call a basic tomato sauce so poetic. It looks very delicious indeed. That picture of the softened veg makes my mouth water. I can smell the thyme.

  2. Absolutely gorgeous, Amuse!! You make simple pleasures so exquisitely beautiful :-)

  3. Wow. That was gorgeous.

    Your description of the thyme creeping in quietly and then suddenly blossoming made me really, really happy to read.

    I love a simple red sauce.

  4. I'd say you pulled this one together pretty perfectly...your writing seems to be getting better and better (it was always good but you get my meaning I hope)
    The red is red, the jumper so green and the photo of the vegetables the best, yes really the best and most suggestive I have ever seen.
    brava my friend.
    I will eat red sauce today and maybe this recipe because it sounds so good.

  5. so beautiful. Tracy, can you teach me to cook italian? I think i'm a hopeless case!

  6. There is something so soothing about making a nice pot of red sauce. Beautiful photos, as always!

  7. Beautiful! I'm glad you included the recipe!! Can you make CBC on the 20th??

  8. Kath - The thyme was magic. Before this I had never thought to put it in a red sauce.

    Rambling Tart - Thank you. :)

    Anna - I think I could eat red sauce on pasta every night.

    rachel - I do get your meaning. You set the bar, my friend.

    Beth - I know you can do it. Although you'll have to acquire a taste for olives and eggs. ;)

    Elizabeth - It is soothing. I was completely relaxed the entire day.

    strawberries - I think I can make the 20th. Am I still assigned dessert?

  9. It felt so calm as you described the very end of just about to eat. I can imagine you had a great relaxing evening with amazing food.

  10. I use this same recipe. It's the best. I love the sweetness of the carrots. I also freeze it and keep in in my fridge where those days when I can't be bothered to cook up something new!

  11. That sauce looks absolutely gorgeous! I haven't made tomato sauce in ages. Can't wait until tomatoes come in season again here. Plus I love your writing style, so much fun to read!

  12. alexandria - It was very nice. We've been using leftovers for homemade pizza.

    Denise - :)

    redmenace - Making up a huge batch and freezing is a great idea. We always mean to, but never get around to it.

    tiina - Thank you. Time for you to make some sauce. :)

  13. Gorgeous sauce! Nothing beat sauces that made from fresh ingredients.

  14. I'm making eggplant parm today and this sounds like the perfect sauce to top… yum.

  15. Lovely post, Tracey. I do enjoy using other herbs in the "basic sauce"----in the winter I will put in a sprig or two of rosemary from the bush in my front yard. But fresh thyme is wonderful indeed. I also love to roast tomatoes and thyme together.

  16. Ellie - I agree. Can't wait for summer when we can use fresh tomatoes and herbs from the garden.

    Julie - Yum. That does sound perfect. Nice little eggplant parm for you and Steve. Let me know how it turns out.

    Nancy - Thank you. Thyme and tomatoes roasting...the smell, out of this world. :)

  17. Gorgeous post and photos! Longtime reader of this blog and this looks great and quite simple too!

  18. I want to come to have dinner at your place!!!!

    I tagged you on my blog if you feel like it:)

  19. Tracy, you make this look so easy. When are you going to start giving lessons?

  20. Geoffrey - It's very simple. :)

    Elisabelle - Anytime! And thanks again for the tag. :)

    Wendi - Many years of milling tomatoes. :)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.