Once you have made the basic tomato sauce (see yesterday’s post), you can decide how to flavour it.
The most classic of all tomato sauces or ‘sugo’ is one that includes chopped up carrot, onion and celery (this is known as a ‘soffritto’) in the tomato sauce (3 parts onion, 2 parts celery and 1 part carrot, that is the rule. I sort of play it by ear and do not care too much if the proportions vary away from the 3-2-1 rule). Fresh parsley or basil leaves are added towards the end of the cooking time – parsley during the winter months and basil when it is in season during the warmer part of the year.
Here are the ingredients: olive oil, celery, onion, carrot, parsley, basil and … because I just love it … whole pepper. Ready and waiting on the right is the freshly made basic tomato sauce (i.e. the one that was described in yesterday’s post).
Here are the ingredients for a basic ‘soffritto’. Put the chopped carrot, celery and onion into a good-sized casserole with plenty of olive oil.
Repeat: plenty of olive oil. The secret to a good sugo is plenty of olive oil. More olive oil, in other words, than you would normally think of as ‘enough’.
Turn the heat on at a fairly low temperature (the onions must not brown) and cook for about 6-8 or even 10 minutes — cooking time always depends on the amount (volume) of food in question.
When the soffritto has softened sufficiently, it’s time to add the tomato sauce. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the basil leaves towards the end of the cooking time … so that they cook for about at least 5 minutes … and do tear them with your hands or bash them about a little to release their precious scent before putting them in.
Add salt and stir and taste. Add a wee bit of sugar too if you think it needs it – it usually does.
At the very end, switch off the heat … and add more olive oil. Stir.
This makes spaghetti or any other kind of pasta al pomodoro! You can sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan cheese on top of the pasta with this tomato sauce and garnish with a sprig of basil leaves.
Keep this tomato sauce in a glass jar in the fridge until you need it … it can keep up to a week or so.