Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of tomato – particularly fresh tomato, which I refused point blank to eat for over 40 years. I eventually changed my mind, but only after discovering the mind-blowingly tasty tomatoes in Russia (where B and I lived for just over 2 years). That said, I have been cooking with tomatoes (fresh and tinned) for quite some time, and I periodically buy fresh tomatoes for my favourite ladies and my children (who love fresh tomatoes and, thankfully, have not inherited that particular idiosyncrasy of mine – my son eats those little Rosa or cherry tomatoes like sweets).
All of that is a long way of explaining that, by yesterday, I had some tomatoes lurking in the kitchen that were decidedly past their best. The only solution was to turn them into a pasta sauce, to be stored in that fantastic plastic in the freezer, ready to be defrosted for a quick ‘n easy simple pasta meal, or to form the basis for a more complex dish (by just adding some de-shelled prawn tails, for example).
It had been a busy week and, by Friday afternoon, I was in the mood for some cooking. Dinner was going to be that Sicilian-style tuna I posted recently, and I also had some of Kitty’s leftover oxtail from earlier in the week that I wanted to turn into ragu (I’ll post on that later in the weekend). First, however, I needed to get rid of those sad tomatoes…
Basic tomato pasta sauce
Apart from the tomatoes, you need some good olive oil, some garlic cloves, anchovies, fresh chillies, tomato paste, salt and black pepper.
B taught me a trick that she’d learnt on a cooking course she went on in Tuscany last year – instead of crushing fresh garlic into a sauce, you put the garlic cloves into the cold olive oil, which you heat slowly. Once the cloves start to brown, remove them and continue with the rest of the recipe. You get a milder garlic flavour than you do with the addition of crushed garlic.
Of course, I cannot resist trying to improve things, so, instead of lobbing whole cloves into the cold olive oil, I prefer to slice the cloves first: the theory being that more surface area is exposed to impart flavour to the oil. When it comes to pasta sauces, I love using my Jamie Oliver / T-Fal stainless steel frying pan, which has deep sides and heats evenly. As already discussed, I started the sauce by slicing a few fresh garlic cloves, added them to a puddle of olive oil in that pan and put it onto a low flame to heat (I do so enjoy cooking on gas!).
I then trimmed the green and white bits from the tomatoes, cut them into chunks and blitzed them (skin, pips, the lot!) to a fine purée in the Moulinex mini-blender (yet another useful kitchen gadget I use often). Once the garlic slices had browned, I removed them from the hot oil and threw in 2 or 3 anchovies, which I broke up using my trust wooden spatula. That was followed by some diced slices of chourizo sausage and chopped fresh red chillies. After I had left that mixture to sizzle quietly for a few minutes, I poured in the liquidised tomatoes and mixed it all up. The smell of fresh tomatoes quickly filled the kitchen, replacing the anchovy / chourizo / chilli scent of a few minutes before. To add flavour, I squeezed in some tomato paste from the tube that I keep in the fridge for just such occasions. I left the whole lot to bubble away quietly until the fluid reduced and it thickened up. The herb pots outside the kitchen door yielded some fresh basil leaves, which I chopped coarsely and stirred into the sauce towards the end. The addition of some Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper finished it off (after a taste check). I left the pan to cool for a while, then poured the sauce into one of those plastic containers I love so much, labelled it (so I know what is in there in 3 months’ time – time and alcohol seem to be playing havoc with my memory…) and popped it into the freezer.
As I said earlier, the sauce will be delicious by itself over some tagliatelle, for a quick ‘n easy meal, or jazzed up with some of the frozen prawn tails I keep handy.
Mmmm – I’m getting peckish again, and I have not made any progress since lunch on those chores, so definitely time to ignore the keyboard for a few hours.