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The Recipe: Tomato Sauce

In anticipation of spring, our thoughts turn to the simple things, like the memory of the best tomato sauce I've ever conjured.

Last May, quite by accident, I stumbled upon a tomato sauce delicious, so rich in umami, that even my hard–to–please children—who never sprinkle a dinner with false praise—had to declare it the best sauce I have ever made.

I can’t imagine how it happened, either.  Not much about that impromptu dinner was designed to impress.

Most shockingly—and I’m embarrassed to even admit this, much less advocate that you follow me down this path made for outcasts and ne’er–do–wells—people who observe the three–second–rule and aren’t above rummaging through other people’s garbage—yes, I started with an unclean skillet.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, and there are some redeeming features to this ghetto sauce conjured in warmer times.  I did happen to have the following available to me:

Three dozen tomatoes that I had slow–roasted in an oven.

Excellent olive oil.

A few thick slices of pancetta from Wegmans.

A few handfuls of leaves from young basil plant.

I have since tried to recreate this sauce with varying degrees of success, but with a few months of winter left and those same months until farmer’s markets are slated to reopen, this is the sauce I am most looking forward to making.

DAY 1

Slow roast a bunch of tomatoes.  I do big batches.  They refrigerated well.  The ones we ate that night had been in the frig for a week.

To slow roast, cut tomatoes in half, salt, pepper, dress with olive oil, and roast at 250 degrees for an hour, turn over—add salt, pepper, olive oil, and roast another hour.

DAY 2  

1.  Start with a healthy disregard for hygeine (I had cooked steaks the previous day in a pan; the skillet had been salted, rubbed with pepper, olive oil, minced garlic, and finished with a little butter.  There was a noticeable film covering the pan and its sides.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  Don’t judge.).  I should have cleaned the pan out first, but I hadn’t.  And I think it, um, added “something” … 

2.  Sauté diced pancetta (two thick slices) in a quarter-cup of olive oil for a few minutes.  The pan should be at medium heat already.

3.  Crush slow roasted tomatoes from the farmer's market in the pan (maybe two cups).

4.  Add some roughly chopped garlic (must have been two large cloves)

5.  Stir in two handfuls of basil shredded by hand from a young plant and serve immediately.  Basil shouldn’t be left in the sauce very long before serving—not more than a few minutes—or it loses its freshness and flavor.

This tomato sauce may never be equalled in this household.  Spring is coming.  Can you taste it?

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