It’s only February 2nd, and already I’m dreaming about Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce — you know, the one and only most delicious tomato sauce in the world. I won’t belabor my love for that sauce a sentence more, but I’d like to share with you a second Hazan tomato sauce I recently discovered.
You see, while the famed Hazan tomato sauce can indeed be made with canned San Marzano tomatoes — I’ve made it several times, and it’s very good — I find it leaves me wanting. In this other Hazan sauce recipe, from Marcella Cucina, canned tomatoes are brightened by olive oil and sautéed onions, a few cloves of crushed garlic, a little white wine, some chopped fresh parsley, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. After about 20 minutes of simmering, it’s done. And it’s delicious.
While making this sauce, I learned something, too, from a note in the book:
As tomatoes cook down and their watery part evaporates, the fat you have used begins to run clear. When you skim the surface of the sauce with the side of a wooden spoon, or wipe away the sauce with the spoon from the bottom of the skillet, you see clear fat following the spoon’s trail, an indication that the tomato sauce is done.
It’s hard to envision this occurrence — clear fat trailing the path of your wooden spoon — but it happens, and when it does, your sauce is done. Cool, right? That Marcella, she knows her stuff.
I admit, this sauce doesn’t compare to the Hazan tomato sauce — what sauce does? — but it doesn’t leave me wanting. And it just might help these months leading up to tomato season pass a wee more quickly.
This is by far the best pasta I have ever tasted. I have a dear friend in NYC to thank for introducing it to me. It’s dry pasta from the Gragnano region of Italy, and my friend finds it at Eataly, a spot I have yet to explore, but which I hear I might like. The pasta hardly needs a sauce — it tastes delectable on its own with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano — but its shape is ideal for catching all of the goodies in any sauce, especially this one. It’s a real treat. Unfortunately,
I cannot find an online source for this pasta. If any of you out there know of one, please let me know. I will be forever grateful! Eataly and Po Valley Foods now sell this pasta online.
I found a link to this Saveur video — How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less than 10 seconds — on Food52. Totally amazing. It really works!
Browned hot Italian venison sausage… the husband has been hunting again. Venison, by the way, is so delicious. More on that soon.
A Second Marcella Hazan Tomato Sauce + Hot Italian Sausage + Gragnano Pasta = Utter Deliciousness
Adapted from Marcella Cucina Eatalyand Po Valley Foods sell Alfetra Vesuvio pasta, which is delicious, online. When I run out of my stash of the good stuff, I'll return to using my favorites from my local supermarket — Barilla or DeCecco gemelli or orecchiette.
- For the tomato sauce:
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped white or yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced, be sure to watch this video
- 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 28-oz can of peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed with hands or snipped with scissors
- crushed chili flakes
- kosher salt
For the pasta:
- 1/2 lb. hot Italian sausage (or more or less to taste)
- 1/2 to 3/4 lb. short pasta
- freshly chopped parsley
- freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to taste
- Place the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan with the onions and sauté on medium until pale gold — you're not trying to brown the onions here; you just want to sweat the onions. Add the garlic and cook just a few seconds until you smell its aroma. Add the parsley, stir once or twice, and then add the wine. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes until the alcohol smell dissipates.
- Add the tomatoes, the crushed chili flakes and a generous pinch of salt, and cook at a steady simmer, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce (see note below*), about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a large skillet until cooked through.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook your pasta al dente. Drain, reserving some of the pasta cooking liquid only if you've made the sauce in advance and are reheating it to toss with pasta.
- Place pasta in a large serving bowl. Toss with enough sauce to coat. Fold in sausage (if using). Sprinkle with some more parsley (optional). Pass cheese on the side.
*Hazan's note: As tomatoes cook down and their watery part evaporates, the fat you have used begins to run clear. When you skim the surface of the sauce with the side of a wooden spoon, or wipe away the sauce from the spoon from the bottom of the skillet, you see clear fat following the spoon's trail, an indication that the tomato sauce is done.**My note: The sauce can be made ahead and heated as needed. It will definitely thicken up as it sits (especially in the fridge), so you might want to reserve some pasta cooking liquid to thin it out when you reheat it. It's not necessary, but I've found this to be helpful.