Jun 3, 2013

Go-To Tomato Sauce

Our first date, the vegetarian cooked me dinner. Of course, this was back in the days when I ate everything and he made a big batch of baked ziti, garlic bread and, because he wanted me to think the best of him, a green salad. Wanting him to think the best of me, I devoured everything (including the green salad). Truth be told, he's pretty famous for his baked ziti and it's the dish I miss the most in my current gluten-free and dairy-free diet.

It took me a month or two to return the favor and cook dinner for the vegetarian. In those days, I was a prolific meat-cooker and my signature dish was roast leg of lamb, closely followed by baked fish or rib-eye steaks -- none of which were suitable for the vegetarian, of course! Not to mention that, knowing what a notoriously picky eater he was, I didn't want to make anything too adventurous. I wanted to make something he (and I) knew he would like.

I thought about making my own version of baked ziti but that just seemed both obnoxious and cheating. So I thought back to our second date, when he took me to his favorite restaurant in Little Italy, Benito One. He had ordered spaghetti pomodoro and declared it hands-down his favorite meal. However, whenever he made spaghetti at home, I knew he always used canned tomato sauce. So I decided to make him a red sauce from scratch.

I don't remember the details (I believe I made an arrabiata). What I do know is that the vegetarian cleaned his plate, had seconds and the rest, as they say, is history. When I first went gluten-free, finding delicious gluten-free pasta was our first order of business. And whenever I have the energy, I make some variation of a red sauce to go with it (or at least doctor up a jar -- shh, don't tell).

May was very busy (and filled with Italian food) for us, with the vegetarian's birthday and both of us working on several projects. We returned to Benito One, where the vegetarian now orders Eggplant Parmesan with a side of Spaghetti Pomodoro, for his birthday. But we both missed having my homemade tomato sauce at home. So for our Monthly Cooking Adventure, I made Spaghetti and Meatballs, with quinoa spaghetti and chicken meatballs (on the side, of course). Our friends made a tiramisu and the vegetarian blew us all away with a new variation on his signature sangria.

Never one to rest on my laurels, I decided to adapt Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe for Tomato Sauce as I especially liked her addition of frying the basil along with the garlic. I also added in some dried basil along with the pepper to bring in that anise flavor I love. The vegetarian couldn't stop raving. Bon appetit!

Go-To Tomato Sauce
adapted from It's All Good
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add garlic and cook 5 minutes. Add 2 basil leaves and cook an additional minute. Add tomatoes (breaking them up with your hands) and their juice and remaining fresh basil. Turn the heat to high, bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Add dried basil, black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes. Serve over spaghetti, meatballs -- whatever. Enjoy!



  1. This sounds great! Can't wait to try it.

  2. A trusty tomato sauce is indispensable, and the simpler, the better! I'm amazed at how rich yours looks from the photos, but with only 2 tablespoons of oil in the recipe.