Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sue Carpenter Banovetz: Mayme, Can I get your recipe or basic instructions for your tomato sauce? Nick said it's molto bene. Ciao, ma amica.

Mayme Donsker: Certo!

Nick Banovetz: ay caramba

Dear Sue,

I have no measured recipe, but I will tell you a few simple rules about making authentic Italian tomato sauce. But first! here is some background about my understanding of Italian cooking:

I gathered these clues by peeking over my Nona's shoulder in Umbria, I couldn't speak Italian yet but I could smell, taste and see. At the time I had such little background in cooking but I knew that I was tasting the best tomato sauce in my I put intimidation aside as I watched her like a hawk, and for the first time I attempted to memorize my pallet. This has been the best and the most useful instrument I have developed as a cook!

When you go to Italy and you see a sign that reads "Trattoria" in front of a restaurant, it means that these are recipes passed on through the family for generations. This is why Italian cooking has so much soul! When I moved to Rome I learned a few simple rules when I took some cooking classes, this gave me some structure.

Mayme's authentic salsa di pomodoro:

American Italian sauce: Soupy, thick and heavy.
Our favorite herb: Bay leaf

Authentic Italian sauce: Infused olive oil that lightly dresses the noodles. Their favorite herbs: Fresh Rosemary, Fresh basil.


~ Olive oil
~ Must be tasty Tomatoes:

Sometime I use a box of cherry tomatoes, they are always so sweet and yummy! I cut them into halves. Italians use Roma Tomatoes..I cut them into quarters and I leave the skin on.

~ Three cloves crushed garlic
~ two sprigs fresh rosemary
~ a couple fresh sage leaves
~ Brown sugar, or plain sugar
~ salt and pepper
~ Red pepper or chile pepper or paprika (whatever you like) can be a little more generous with paprika.

Okay Sue, this is simple but you need to taste as you go.

~ Start with a generous amount of olive oil in your warm sauce pan, enough to dress your noodles. The olive oil is the bulk of your sauce. will be reducing the water from the tomatoes in your oil, so don't depend on the tomatoes too much... we want to cook the water down.

~ Throw in a couple cloves of crushed garlic, swirl around until the oil smells amazing (when it just starts to smell good, it's done it's magic), remove the garlic from the oil before the cloves brown! (it will make your oil bitter if it burns).

~ Throw the used garlic into your boiling noodle water, Italians always flavor their noodle water with garlic, oil, maybe some chile powder or some fresh but arid herbs (Rosemary, thyme, sage....).

~ Add a couple stems of fresh Rosemary or sage to your garlic infused oil. These herbs don't get bitter as they burn, you can keep them in the oil, plus they make the house smell sooooo good.

~ Add a couple dashes of brown sugar to the oil

~ Add a dash of chile or paprika

~ Salt and pepper to taste, bringing out the flavors as it lightly sizzles.

~ Taste your oil, the infused oil is the base of your sauce, if it's too bitter you can start again before you use your tomatoes. It should taste aromatic, sweet, garlicky and salty.

~ When your oil is ready, throw in your tomatoes. Cook down until the tomato water is reduced.

~ Taste, and add more salt, pepper, or sugar if it needs it.

~ When the tomatoes and the tomato water have cooked down, remove from heat. At this point you can leave it chunky and rustic looking or you can blend it in the food processor.

~ Add full basil leaves when your sauce has cooled so they do not wilt before serving, this looks beautiful and it tastes fresh.

~ Grate real parmigiano reggiano! Less is more with the good stuff! The better the cheese the better the sauce!

~ Dress your noodles, drink chianti classico and buon appititio!