Wednesday, July 21, 2010
For many the concept of road food is synonymous with crinkly paper bags and usually arrives through the window of your car. Not for these kids. Road food is every day food. With markets as variable as the climate there are days when I have a bounty of fresh herbs at my disposal and days with nothing fresher than an onion or clove of garlic. Life on the road requires having a repertoire of flexible, standby meals when the fresh stuff becomes scarce. The following recipe from The Queen of Italian Cuisine, Marcella Hazen, is road food perfection: silky buttered tomatoes (canned or fresh) and pasta (fresh or dried), no cheese*, nothing fussy, just good food.
Simmering the tomatoes slowly with butter and onion yields a sauce that is delightfully smooth, complex and oooh-so-good. No matter how long it's been between market stops, I always have onion, I always have butter and never let my stash of tinned tomatoes drop below a half a dozen cans. It doesn't get easier than this, even on the road.
Marcella Hazen's Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions
Adapted from Marcela Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking
Serves 4 as a main course
28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes in juice, not puree (San Marzano, if you can find them) OR 2 lbs fresh plum tomatoes, halved
5 tablespoons (70 grams) butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved from root to sprout
Salt to taste
Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (it fit just right in a 3-quart) over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes you may want to increase the cooking time slightly. The texture of the tomatoes should be very soft, but still a little chunky. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion and add salt to taste. Toss with spaghetti and serve. This recipe makes enough sauce to coat 1 lb of pasta.
This sauce is even better simmered over a campfire, but then again, everything tastes better cooked over hardwood.
* Despite my propensity to smother pasta in parmesan, I think this dish is better without it. Try it both ways and let me know what you think.