I learned to make this sauce thirty ago from Helen Federico, (Scroll down to "1943") a dear friend whose cooking skills are equaled only by her generosity of spirit and talent as an illustrator, and graphic designer. I recollect that she only made it in the late summer -the end of the growing season for tomatoes in lower NY State- when she would buy a couple of bushels from local growers and put the sauce up en masse.
Although it is cheapest and most satisfying to make this sauce from fresh tomatoes it can also be made quite well with good canned San Marzano tomatoes or their equivalent.
My technique is a bit different from Helen's. For example, I never saw her use a potato masher or an immersion blender, but everything else is about the same.
Deep 2qt+ pot
Potato masher (For canned tomatoes: I hate cutting up canned tomatoes)
Blender or even better, an Immersion Blender
About 10-15 minutes
- 2- 35oz (#20) cans of whole plum tomatoes or 4 lbs fresh ripe plum tomatoes cut into 1/4's
- 4-6 oz good olive oil
- 5-6 med cloves of garlic, sliced up crudely (it's going into a blender so who cares what it looks like?)
- 12 leaves of fresh basil (you can use less, no big deal)
- Salt to taste or approx. 1/2 tsp
- Pepper to taste
Drop in the tomatoes. Mix them around a bit to stop the garlic from frying. If you are using canned tomatoes mash them up with the masher. Bring the sauce up to a simmer, let it cook for 10 minutes. Add the salt and Basil then emulsify it with a blender or an immersion blender.
I prefer to use the immersion blender because there's less to clean up and you can puree the sauce hot without having to worry about it flying all over the kitchen.
One of the many things that's nice about this sauce is that because it is emulsified, it doesn't run off the pasta or break up into puddles of oil and chunks of tomato. Just be careful not to boil it and break the emulsion when you reheat it.
I think the sauce is best served the way Helen served it. Spooned over the pasta after it has been put in the individual pasta bowls. Then grate some Parmigiano on top with a Mouli (I'm devoted to these and have used this type for almost thirty years.) follow it with a liberal grinding of black pepper then pause, take in the aroma and sit back and think about it for a moment before you lift your fork -just like the Helen's late husband Gene used to do.
That part of the recipe I learned from Gene and it's the one ingredient I never vary, ever.
I'll bet their kids don't either.