This is what we use in every recipe that calls for tomato sauce, whether it’s by the tablespoon or the cup. The infused oil is the secret that makes this sauce so great. Not only does it give the sauce a supple texture, but it also reinforces the flavors of the basil and the crushed red pepper while introducing just a hint of garlic. And it’s about as easy to make as a cup of tea; you simply let the ingredients steep in the hot oil. For the best consistency, use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes as they cook. It’s a trick I learned from watching tomato sauce preparation in my Italian household.
Makes 3 cups.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, from The Scarpetta Cookbook, by Scott Conant (c) 2013.
|extra-virgin olive oil||10 cloves garlic|
|12 plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded, plus any juices from peeling and seeding, strained and reserved (see Note)||3 sprigs fresh basil (about 24 leaves plus stems)|
|Kosher salt||1-1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes|
In a wide saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the tomatoes; be careful, as the oil may spurt. Add 1 ½ teaspoons salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
Lower the heat to medium and, using a potato masher, smash the tomatoes, really working the masher to break them up. If the consistency is thick, add the reserved tomato juice to the pan. Cook, occasionally mashing and stirring, for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally to wilt the basil, until the garlic is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the oil from the heat and let the ingredients steep for 5 minutes.
Strain about half of the oil into the cooked tomatoes. (Strain and reserve the rest of the flavorful oil; it’s a great bread-dipping oil.) Stir to combine. Remove the sauce from the heat. Taste and add additional salt, if needed. The sauce may taste spicy on its own, but it gets balanced when used with other ingredients, especially the pasta, butter, and cheese in the Scarpetta Spaghetti.
The sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for 2 days. Reheat gently before serving.
Note: If your tomatoes are not ripe, bright, and juicy, reduce the number of fresh tomatoes to 8 and add 4 whole canned San Marzano
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