I’m a school teacher, so money is the least of my worries… mice are.Â Yet whether I’m buying jeans (lately on-sale Levi’s) or buying bar soap (Lever2000) , I try to get the most bang with the least buck.Â This processÂ continues when I’m buying items to make a meal at home.Â You don’t always need the most expensive ingredients to make your meal great, but it helps.
One item I try not to skimp on is canned tomatoes.Â The kind that I prefer toÂ buy are San Marzano tomatoes.Â These areÂ tomatoes that areÂ grown exclusivelyÂ in the Valle del Sarno in Italy and classified as Pomodoro S. Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino…Â Blah Blah Blah… I honestly don’t care about all of that back story.Â I just know that these kind of tomatoes taste fresher, are consistently firmer with less seeds, and areÂ integral in making a great tasting dish.Â And yes, they are more expensive…usually about $3-$4 more than a 28oz can of Italian Style whole plum tomatoes (the Non San Marzano variety). But I usually get about four different meals out of a batch of homemade tomato sauce so the extra cash( and superior taste) is easy to justify.
I use San Marzano tomatoes when IÂ make my own tomato sauce (or Sunday Gravy,Â or marinara sauce, or spaghetti sauce, or whatever you want call it), but that’s not a big deal.Â Anybody who’s serious about having a solid plate of pasta (or making a killer Eggplant Parmigiana like the one pictured above)Â at home makes their own sauce.Â It tastes world’s better than most every store-bought variety and it’s very easy to make.Â There’s an infinite number of ways to make sauceÂ (with meat, without meat, smooth, chunky, spicy, garlicky, slow cooked, etc.)Â and people tend to gravitate toward the style they grew up eating as a kid.Â Here’s how I make mine:
Brown 1lb of pork (cut up pork shoulder, sliced pork belly, or spare ribs…it doesn’t matter) in a couple of drizzles of olive oil in a heavy bottom, wide stock pot.Â When those are browned, take them out and reserve.Â Next do the same with 1.5lbs of hot Italian sausage links with fennel…remove when done. While the meat is browning, open 3 28oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes and use a food processor to puree them.Â Â You’ll have to work in batches, unless you’ve got some insanely large gearÂ in your kitchen.Â You can make the tomatoes as smooth or chunky as you like…I like mine to be pretty damn velvety.Â In the same pot saute 6 garlic cloves that have been worked through a garlic press, about a minute, or until you can clearly smell the garlic ( I hate being able to see any large bits of garlic in the sauce…the pressing allows for the garlic to practically melt entirely away during cooking).Â When the garlic is very lightly browned add tomatoes, a handful of chopped fresh basil, and about 10 shakes of dried oregano. If you do 9 or 11 shakes your sauce will be inedible and you’ll have to start over. Add your browned meat to the pot and a little salt and let it simmer, stirring it every time you walk by, for a couple hours.