Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tomato sauce

We eat pasta about once every six days in our house. About half that time, it takes the form of tomato sauce. I always start with a foundation of olive oil, onion and garlic and build from there - fresh herbs, some cured pork product, maybe some breadcrumbs (as shown) but more often grated cheese (Parma, Romano, or another of the fine granas that are out there, or sometimes a goat or a sheep's milk blue. Take your pick.)

As for the tomatoes, here's what I've learned over the years: Screw fresh. A fresh tomato is like mana. The day they start falling from heaven, have at it. Otherwise, don't expect a miracle.

Even in season, they're insulting. Yes, you can grow them yourself, or find a friend, or visit a farmer's market. And this will last about a month, two if it doesn't rain at the wrong time. But in the supermarket stalls, where beauty is only skin deep, leave the tomatoes where they lay and head for the canned aisles.

The other day, I saw that my usual brand, Cento, now came in a San Marzano selection. These are the famed, elongated fruits that grow beneath Vesuvius in southern Italia, in the province of Naples (home of pizza) and in the shadow of Pompeii. Tomatoes ooze here like hot lava.

The flavor of San Marzano: richer, tangier, meatier more intense. At least the can of them I bought at Judy Allen's Brookside shop.

But even Hunt's kicks king hell out of the so-called fresh tomatoes. To my taste, anyway.

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