OK, I am going to be peppering my own recipes here as well from my own "green box," which is not so much a green box, but a homely black three ring binder, full of recipes I have typed up in Word, a favorites printed from All-Recipes, Food Network, etc. This basic recipe is something I usually make once a week, and is incredibly easy and versatile. It can be used as prepared for a simple Spaghetti Marinara, or as the base a variety of Italian creations, all of which are family favorites. So let's start it up, shall we?
First off I would like to say if you grow your own Roma tomatoes (I grow San Marzano) then by all means use them when in season, as this recipe is really meant to show off this awesome fruit. These tomatoes are what started me making this sauce in the first place, out of panic actually. The summer before last our tomato plants went rogue on us. They were frightening, really. One day they were about four feet tall, and I swear, I went out two days later and they were looming menacingly over my head, towering over six feet! I swear they were whispering, "Feed me Seymour..." More frighting then that were the tomatoes themselves, pulling the branches down at odd angles. Does anyone remember Sigmund and the Sea Monsters? Well that is pretty much what they looked like.
Needless to say we started frantically picking, and picking (rinse and repeat). I now had a mountain of tomatoes in my kitchen, Roma's, Cherry, and Heirlooms. Here is the kicker...No one else in my family likes tomatoes, especially raw, so I decided to research sauces and salsa's (we'll save salsa for another day). After several attempts, the following recipe is the end result. It has a depth of flavor you just can't find in a store bought sauce, and it freezes great if you want to double/triple the batch.
Basic Recipe Ingredients
Canned Whole Plum Tomatoes, 28oz (if you are using fresh tomatoes, about 2 lbs chopped into quarters, I usually don't bother peeling)
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
One medium to large sweet onion
Three large garlic cloves, (minced, not crushed)
2 Tbs EV Olive Oil
1 Tbs dried Oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 14 oz can finally diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
Optional: 1 tsp red pepper flakes, fresh chopped basil
Turn oven to 350 degrees
Dice the onion and saute in oven-proof sauce pan on medium heat, allowing them to sweat but don't brown, approximately 5-8 minutes. When onions become transparent, add garlic, oregano and basil and continue over medium heat for 30 seconds to one minute. Add can of whole tomatoes, with liquid, chicken broth and stir. For fresh tomatoes allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes to release their juices. Place in oven for 35-45 minutes. This will allow the whole mixture to soften and caramelize. When you remove from pan from the oven* you want the edges of the sauce to be a few shades darker than the middle of the pan. Carefully add contents of pan into Cuisinart (or blender) and pulse until combined well, but not pureed (this is why the skins of fresh tomatoes don't really matter). Return to pan and add the can of diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, let simmer an additional ten minutes. Stir in fresh chopped basil at this point if you are so inclined and serve on top of your favorite pasta. works especially well with raviolis, or any stuffed pasta...
*side note: You have just removed a pan, with a handle, from a hot oven, remember this when you grab the pan with your bare hands and the swearing starts...I did.
What I have learned with this recipe...I prefer my Cyphalon non-stick saute pan to my All-Clad, as sometimes tomatoes come out with slightly metallic taste. This is also why I don't use my hand held blender, which is metal, to blend the sauce. Also, the addition of more tomatoes at the end really brightens the flavor of the sauce, making it more well balanced. I don't recommend store bought fresh tomatoes, but if you can get some exceptional tomatoes at the Farmer's Market, go for it.
Remember, this is a base sauce, and while I use it as-is quite often, you can make it your own, by adding wine (before it enters the oven), different herbs, using it as a base for meat sauces, on chicken parmigiana, meatballs, you name it!