Archive for the ‘Stocks & Sauces’ Category

My Tomato Sauce

Monday, April 6th, 2009

I’ve got a bunch of my friends asking me how come my tomato sauce tastes so rich and has such a rich deep flavor. I am going to go over a few tricks here, but put it short and sweet: I do not put too much stuff in my tomato sauce, and I stew it for hours. Ok, I hear people talk about how they cook tomato sauce (that is sauce for pasta, gnocchi, pork) and I get scared. I mean sometimes there is a list of ingredients that tops a vegetable isle in Whole Foods! It’s tomato sauce. Period. Not tomato and pepper sauce, not tomato, pepper, onion, sausage and whatever else sauce. Not to say there is something wrong with those sauces – they are just not a TOMATO sauce!

My most important tricks to making a rich, thick and flavorful tomato sauce that is as old-world Italian as it gets are very simple:

1. Superb Tomatoes, like San Marzano, or other good Italian brand plum tomatoes in their own juice, unsalted, nothing else added to them. Please check to see that there is nothing added: stores these days love adding all kinds of shit to canned food.

2. Few other ingredients / spices. I actually make different combination practically every time I cook my sauce, but here is my classic recipe.

My Tomato Sauce

My Tomato Sauce


San Marzano tomatoes (1 large can)

Fresh basil leaves (8-10) or a tsp of dried basil, or tsp of dried oregano, or both.

A decent amount of olive oil (2-3 tablespoons)

1 tsp salt + 2 tsp of sugar (adjust that to your own taste)

2 tsp of tomato paste dissolved in ½ cup of water

¼ cup of red wine

(If, and only if I want to make it spicy for shrimp and other seafood dishes, I will add 1 – 2 dried chilies)

3. Process tomatoes using a food processor. Do not dice, cut, chop, whip or blend your tomatoes. Just use a good old-fashioned food mill!

4. Stew it for around 6 hours on low heat.

5. Use the right saucepan. I use 2.5 mm thick copper 2.5 qt saucepan – there’s something about copper pots – they just make sauces creamier. Cast iron saucepan, like Le Creuset will do quite well also, along with maybe a very heavy-duty stainless steel pot. DO NOT use light cookware to make this: it will most likely burn the sauce.


I heat the oil first, making sure it’s hot but not smoking. If I choose to use a chilly I will add it now and leave it for a few minutes on lower heat to infuse the oil. If not, I will add processed tomatoes and bring them to a light simmer, add basil /oregano, salt and sugar. Add tomato paste & wine, close the lid with a slight crack to it to allow some evaporation and stew for 5-6 hours, stirring at hour intervals or so.

This sauce is great on:

Pasta, gnocchi, polenta, toasted baguette, pork or chicken.


Brown Vegetable Stock

Sunday, December 7th, 2008
Stock is a soul of every great meal. In fact, stock is what separates every-day scrip-scraps from great flavorful food. In restaurants, professionals always use stocks for sauces, reductions, bases for soups and foundations of many dishes. Many home cooks, rely on bouillon cubes or canned versions of over salted paste or simply water, which all lack personality and never compare to your home made stock. Fact is – making stock is not that hard, and it will still make your house smell good. I intend to write about more involved veal and chicken stocks in the near future, but here are simple few steps to a vegetable stock that will enhance many of your meals. Brown stock usually means you roast vegetables prior to adding them to a stockpot. If you need to make a clear stock, don’t roast veggies, just sweat them in your stockpot with a little olive oil before adding water. Brown stalk is usually more flavorful, more full-bodied.

This specific stock I created to accommodate an allergy to onion (alum or Lily family, which would include garlic, chives, shallots, onion – the bulbs.) If you have no such allergy, adding onion to this stock is always a possibility. To substitute for a lack of onion, (which is often the foundation of many stocks) I use Fennel. It works quite nicely and enables me to play around with different flavors.

Brown Vegetable Stock

Brown Vegetable Stock

Cookware: Large Heavy Stockpot

Method: Simmering


2 carrots

2 stalks of celery

2 stalks of fennel

1 onion (if using)

1 package (or ½ lb of white mushrooms)

½ pound bag of vegetable trimmings (carrot peeling, celery, zucchini, fennel, cabbage, lettuce ends, basil stalks)

2-3 springs of fresh Thyme

2 bay leaves

¼ cup cheap white wine

Some peppercorns

Parsley stalks

In a large roasting pan add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and dump carrots, celery and fennel stocks and onion if you are going to use it. Other solid chunks of saved frozen goodies are welcomed to that pile as well. Roast on 350 degrees for about an hour, until veggies are lightly browned.

In a heavy stockpot heat few tablespoons of olive oil and toss the roasted veggies in. Meanwhile, deglaze the roasting pan with some white wine and scrape up all the browned bits stuck to the pan and add to stockpot. Add the rest of the contents of your frozen savings, bay leaves, parsley stalks and peppercorns. In fact dump everything in there other than mushrooms. Close the lid and let the vegetables sweat for a minute or 2. Add 4 -5 qts. of water and increase the heat. Make sure not to boil your stock, just bring it to a simmer and lower the heat to med-low. Sauté mushrooms until they start releasing liquid and add to your pot. Mushrooms add great taste to stock – my personal favorite trick. (I swear I can make great stock using just mushrooms, basil stalks, wine, lemon and shrimp tails.) Keep simmering for about 1 and 45 minutes, with lid cracked to reduce your stock. Cool. Strain through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Save and use in sauces, soups, risotto, stews, braises and rice dishes.

I usually use this specific stock for lentil or other vegetable soups, fennel, basil and sun dried tomato risotto, reductions for light sauces (like my soy-grapefruit reduction for Asian noodles, I will write this up soon.)

Tips & Tricks:

Save your vegetables — butts of carrots, onions, fennel, broccoli stalks, zucchini, cabbage, celery, basil stalks, parsley stalks, etc in a bag and keep in your freezer. There is no reason to throw those seemingly useless bits away – they have tons on flavor you can extract and use in making stocks.

I keep my stock frozen, and tend to make a fair amount of it. This way any time I want to whip up a sauce or a soup I always have it ready.

Experiment with vegetables, but stay away from things like eggplant, artichokes, potatoes!!! (Potatoes will cloud your stock) Do not salt your stock too much; you can always salt whatever the stock goes into.