This is a very flexible sauce. I've included a vegetarian variation for you within the recipe and a few carnivorous suggestions at the end. Use fresh tomatoes whenever possible. If none are available, I like a brand of tomatoes that come in a box from Italy. Beautiful and just the right consistency without any of the BPA you would get in cans. BPA is still not one of my preferred seasonings.
If you grow tomatoes, you can save them for the sauce by rinsing, coring, chopping, and putting them into freezer bags. Measure 1 - 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes into each bag and you won't need to buy canned tomatoes.
Roasted Garlic and Basil Pasta Sauce
2 full heads of garlic, separated, roasted*, and peeled - do not chop the cloves they must be left whole
3 1/2 pounds tomatoes
1 T pure olive oil
A good cup or more of fresh basil, rinsed and torn
6 oz (or more if necessary) of good imported Italian tomato paste
1 cup of beef stock (**vegetarian variation below)
1 cup of good red wine
1 bay leaf
I do not use salt. If you do, don't tell me.
1/2 t or so of fresh ground black pepper
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried crushed rosemary
if you are a true fan of garlic, add a few teaspoons of powdered garlic too. I do and it's delicious. Granulated garlic has a distinctly different flavor from fresh whole roasted cloves and add a terrific depth to the flavors.
1 Tablespoon or so of brown sugar (depends on the acidity of your tomatoes, you may not need any sugar)
What to do:
*roast the garlic on a pan in the oven (a toaster oven is fantastic for this). 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12-15 minutes. Let them roast until the papery part starts to brown and they feel softened when you poke them. Allow to cool naturally on the pan while you start the rest of the sauce. I find it easiest for my arthritic hands to peel them if I chop off one end. This is another of my favorite rather messy jobs that make the house and your hands smell simply wonderful!
Rinse, core, and rough chop the tomatoes (see Note). Put them in a bowl and dig in with your hands and squish them a bit.
Note: If you like your sauce smooth, you will want to peel the tomatoes. Unfortunately, if you do that you pitch a great lot of vitamins and fiber, which is not very mindful. This sauce will take a couple hours to cook and much of the peel will break down. I prefer a rather “lumpy bumpy” sauce instead of smooth and love the peel. Give it a try, you may be like me and never peel again!
Rough chop the onion and put it in a bowl. Rinse, pat dry, and tear the basil into pieces; place in a bowl. Measure the stock and wine. Measure and place all seasonings in a bowl.
**you can skip the beef stock if you are a vegetarian. Replace the cup of stock with more tomato and wine in the proportion you prefer.
How to cook the sauce:
In a very large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer and dance, add the chopped onion. Sauté until the onion has softened. You can brown the onions or not. Browned onions add a wonderful savory element to the sauce, but it is not absolutely required by law.
Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a nice simmer. The sauce will be a bit thin. That’s ok. Let it simmer at least two hours to reduce a bit. If at that time it is not thick enough for you, add a few more squishes of tomato paste (I love the tomato paste that comes from Italy and is in a tube just like toothpaste!). Stir frequently. As you near the two hour point, taste and adjust the seasonings. When the sauce is as thick as you like cover it with a lid and keep it simmering on low until the pasta is ready. I usually cook this sauce at least three hours, but it has also gone on a simmering quite a bit longer.
You may “need” to check the taste a few times. A nice piece of chewy bread is good for dipping into the sauce…. as often as you like. A cook cannot be too sure, after all, your reputation is on the line…
If you are a meat eater, this is a wonderful sauce for adding ribs, meatballs, or your favorite sausage. Make sure you brown the meats well first. Depending on the meat, you may want to extend the cookery time another hour or so. Meatballs will be fine with an hour or two of cookery, but ribs will enjoy a longer simmer until they are tender.