Thursday, April 16, 2015

Salsa di Pomodoro

     Italian Tomato Sauce!
     There are several kinds of tomato sauce in Italian cuisine.  Two can be considered to be mother sauces.  Salsa di Pomodoro and Marinara can be used to make several secondary sauces.  Both of these sauces are used in many recipe applications.  Marinara is made in about 40 minutes and Salsa di Pomodoro takes about 4 hours to finish.    
     Salsa di Pomodoro recipe is a standardized recipe that nearly every Italian chef makes the same way.  There are very few variations of the recipe.  The only major variation is whether the Salsa di Pomodoro is flavored with meat or not. 

     I apprenticed with several great Italian chefs early in my career.  The first apprenticeship was with a great Sicilian chef who won many culinary awards in New York City.  This chef taught me the rules of perfection Italian cuisine.  All I can say is if an aspiring cook wants to learn the best sauté techniques and the best pasta making techniques, apprenticing in an Italian kitchen will build stronger skills than attending any culinary arts school.  The same can be said about Italian saucier work and bread making.

     Today's Salsa di Pomodoro is the meatless recipe version and this sauce is the standard in the industry.  This sauce has a very bright red color, the flavor is right on the money and this sauce clings to pasta just like it should.  
     There are no secrets to making a great Salsa di Pomodoro.  The sauce has to be stirred from the bottom to the top once every 5 minutes for 4 hours.  No excess liquids are added, so the sauce does not look flat, like stewed tomatoes or something.  The sauce is bright shiny red because a copious amount of olive oil is infused with the tomatoes as the sauce simmers.
     The selection of tomatoes makes all the difference in the world.  Imported Italian canned tomatoes are the best choice.  Spanish or California canned tomatoes are far too acidic.  Overripe fresh tomatoes are better for making Marinara Sauce or Fresco style a la minute tomato sauces.  If you have a bumper crop of plum tomatoes in your garden, then by all means, they can be used to make a big batch of Salsa di Pomodoro.
     To finish the Salsa di Pomodoro, the sauce should be run through a hand turned food mill.  A food mill pressed the sauce through tiny holes on a steel plate and each particle of tomato in the sauce will be a uniform size.  A food mill is necessary because several types of canned tomato are used to make the sauce.   
     To make the meat flavored version, place a piece of roasted pork shoulder in the pot and remove the pork shoulder before processing the sauce in a food mill.  The fat and roasted pork flavor enriches the sauce.  The spent roasted pork can be used to make other recipes, but it is nearly tasteless and there is no nutritional value after simmering for so long. 

     Salsa di Pomodoro:  
     This recipe yield about 4 or 5 portions of sauce, depending on the application!
     • This is the meatless tomato sauce version.  
     • If Imported Canned Italian San Marzano Tomatoes Packed In Their Own Juices are used, then add about an extra 8 ounces of tomato puree, because San Marzano Tomato juices are so thick and rich. 
     • The olive oil proportion should be about 1/10 of the volume of the tomatoes.
     • The sauce has to be stirred from the bottom to the top once every 5 minutes for 4 hours. 
     Step 1:  Place 28 ounces of Imported Canned Italian Whole Italian Plum Tomatoes Packed In Their Own Juices in a mixing bowl.  
     Hand squeeze and crush the tomatoes till no big chunks remain.
     Set the hand crushed tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of olive oil.  (not virgin olive oil) 
     Add 8 cloves of finely chopped garlic.
     Add 1/2 cup of finely minced onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color, but do not let the onions brown.
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add a 28 ounce can of Imported Italian Crushed Plum Tomatoes.
     Add 14 ounces of Imported Italian Tomato Puree.
     Add the reserved hand squeezed tomatoes and juices to the pot. 
     Stir the sauce. 
     Step 3:  Add 1 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add sea salt and ground black pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh basil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced Italian Parsley.  
     Add 1 cup of Italian dry red wine.  (Or French Burgundy.  Why waste good Italian Chianti!) 
     Step 4:  Heat the sauce and stir occasionally, till the sauce starts to very gently boil.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     *Leave the pot uncovered.  Never cover a pot of Italian tomato sauce with a lid or the sauce will be lifeless like stewed tomatoes!  
     Step 5:  Gently simmer the sauce and stir the sauce once every 5 minutes for 4 hours.  
     *The object is to stir the olive oil into the sauce, so it combines with the tomatoes.  The sauce should be simmering gently and there should be very little bubbling on the surface.  Scrape the sides of the inside of the pot back into the sauce too.  That stuff is full of flavor!  
     After 4 hours, the flavors will meld and the tomato sauce will reduce to a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.  The excess tomato juices should be reduced at this point.  The olive oil should be well combined with the tomatoes, because the sauce was stirred often.
     Step 6:  Not everybody has a food mill in their kitchen, so this step is optional.  For a very smooth Salsa di Pomodoro, allow the sauce to cool, then run the sauce through a hand turned food mill into a container.  Some people like a smooth Italian tomato sauce!  
     *A blending wand or food processor should not be used to mill the sauce, because the sauce will be aerated and the color will change.  
     Step 7: Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.  (Or refrigerate the sauce and reheat the sauce to order.)

    A great tasting Italian tomato sauce!

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