Makes enough sauce to serve over pasta for about 8 people
1 recipe baked meatballs
2 full heads of garlic, roasted, peeled with the cloves left whole
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, rough chopped
1 (32 oz) can peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 (28 oz) can tomato puree
6 oz (or more if necessary) of tomato paste
1 cup of beef stock
1 cup of good red wine
1 Parmesan or Romano rind
1 good cup or more of fresh basil, rinsed and torn
1 bay leaf
a few shakes of hot red pepper flakes, or to taste, I use 1/4 teaspoon
4 t garlic powder
1 t dried basil
3/4 t of fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 t dried oregano
1 t dried crushed rosemary
Optional: dark brown sugar
Spoon Mage™ Note:
My favorite brand of canned tomatoes have always been Hunts – and Cento if I need a more delicate tomato flavor. Now there is a very good store brand in a local grocers called HEB that I find quite delicious. Experiment. Each brand will require an adjustment to the seasonings. Find the one you love and learn what it needs.
Some tomatoes are mild in flavor and others more assertive. If your tomatoes are assertive, you may need to add more seasonings to match the tomato.
Other tomatoes are a bit tart and acidic. This is when you will need the optional dark brown sugar. Add 1 tablespoon at a time, letting it sit a few minutes between additions until the sauce has a good balance. You do not want to over-sweeten the sauce.
I use dried garlic in addition to the roasted cloves as it has a distinctly different flavor from more mellow fresh roasted and adds a terrific depth to the flavors. Start with 2 teaspoons and add more to suit your taste buds. Both fresh and dried basil are used for the same reason – depth of flavor.
Vegetarians may prefer this Fresh Cacciatore Sauce (add link).
You may notice that I don’t include salt. Your taste buds may protest and so use it if you must, just don’t tell me, I am watching my blood pressure. I tend to rely on seasonings like hot red pepper flakes or acidic additions like balsamic vinegar to perform the trick of salt – accentuate the flavors. If you don’t want to use hot red pepper flakes, go ahead and add 1 T of balsamic vinegar to this sauce.
If using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, rinse, core, and rough chop them, peeling is optional. The peels incorporate pretty well as this sauce is cooked for a good leisurely long time.
Otherwise, just open the tomato cans, pour the whole tomatoes in a bowl, poke each one with your finger (to prevent messy tomato explosions), and then crush them all.
Rough chop the onion and put it in a bowl.
Rinse, pat dry, and tear the basil into pieces; place in a bowl. Measure the stock, wine, and all the seasonings. Make sure you know where the Parmesan rind is. You may not need the brown sugar, so wait until later to bother about that.
Add the oil to a large deep pot that has been set over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer and dance, add the chopped onion. If the temperature is right, you will hear a satisfying sizzling as they are poured into the pot. Sauté until the onion has softened. There is no need to brown the onions, but you can if you like.
Add all the remaining ingredients: tomatoes, puree, paste, beef stock, wine, Parmesan rind, basil, bay leaf, hot red pepper flakes, garlic powder, black pepper, oregano, and rosemary.