Sorry about the delays in posting recently. As my main source of income is writing about comic books and toys, I was down in the city for the New York Comic Con Thursday through Sunday, coming back only to sleep. Since the most interesting thing I ate was a burrito from a place in grand central station, I didn’t come away with much in the way of material for Monkeying Around The Kitchen. However, a few days before the convention, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now: making one of Francesco Ghedini’s Northern Italian Cooking sauce recipes from scratch. After swinging by a farm stand last week, I had a mix of red and yellow tomatoes and got cooking!
This old fashioned recipe called for four pounds of tomatoes to start off with. I discovered that that basically evened out to eight tomatoes, though I threw a few more in to use them up (I had about twice that number). I started off by boiling a big pot of water and dunking the tomatoes in there for a dozen seconds or so. Basically, the boiling splits the skin, which you need to take off for the sauce. This was hot work and a crying baby didn’t help matters, but I finished quick enough, got her back to sleep and went back to work.
Once the tomatoes were peeled, I quartered the tomatoes, squeezed out the seeds, juice and water, tossed them in a pair of colanders, salted and let dry out. I let them sit for the recommended 20 minutes, sometimes moving them around and squeezing a bit more to get some of the water out. I don’t know the science or intent behind all this, but I went with it. Anyone know?
Anyway, while those dried I chopped up prosciutto and onions (I was surprised that this recipe didn’t call for garlic). I had also measured out and set aside the thyme, bay leaf and flour called for. The onions, prosciutto, thyme and bay leaf went into a Dutch over with olive oil and I browned the onions. After those cooked, I stirred in some flour. At some point in the process, I went back and chopped the tomatoes bits up into even smaller chunks, put them in a strainer and let drain even more. After the flour was stirred in, the tomatoes went in and I cooked again with pepper and sugar. That cooked for 30 minutes.
As that cooked, I added some more water back to my stock pot, tossed in some salt and got the water boiling for pasta. I had gotten a veggie-infused short, ridgy pasta that wound up being a good choice because it really grabbed the sauce. After the 30 minute cook, I stirred in a tablespoon of butter, waited for the sauce to cook down and then poured into the Cuisinart. The sauce was kind of chunk and looked pretty orange, which reminded me of pumpkin, but tasted really fresh and good with nice salty and buttery notes.
It wasn’t even really that much work. I feel like this is the kind thing that takes less and less time the more and more you do it. I’ll hopefully be able to get my hands on some more tomatoes before the weather really turns. I’d like to get some of this, and maybe a few other recipes from the book, made and stored for those cold winter months.