When I was growing up, my family prided ourselves in staying true to the Italian tradition of purity in cooking, following all the rules that make the food so refined back in the mother country. In our kitchen, garlic went into oil-based sauces that were either eaten plain or with fish; onion was used in meat sauces or sauces that would take grated cheese on top. Garlic and onions together? Never. Garlic and cheese? Nope. Oregano in the sauce? Only a pinch in seafood sauces, and never, never on top of a pizza.
But this week, a recipe caught my eye in my big yellow cookbook. This seemed an ode to the classic Italian-American sauce, where more is always more. Garlic and onions together? Of course! And especially if oregano was thrown in there too.
My big yellow cookbook, in all the years I’ve been cooking from it, never steered me wrong. So I gave it a shot. And I have to say, it was terrific! If you’re going to throw it all in the pot, this is the way to do it. Though there is a lot going on in there, it is perfectly calibrated and balanced to keep everything in check, and it tastes like the best version of an Italian-American red sauce that you’ve ever had. And that, in its own way, is quite refined.
Gourmet’s Tomato Sauce
from The Gourmet Cookbook
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes in juice, drained (juice reserved) and chopped (UGB here: I couldn’t be bothered—I just put them all in the pot and then had at them with a potato masher)
1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and oregano and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes with their juice, bay leaf, and salt, bring to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 30 to 35 minutes.
Discard bay leaf and stir in parsley, if using.