A very simple recipe. Many of you probably already know it, and it's not even a "real" recipe in the sense that it really only has three or four ingredients, but I was pleased at how good it was.
This month's Real Simple (which, more and more, I'm wondering if I'm even remotely in the target demographic of - a lot of the featured clothing is far more pricey than what I'd spend, and some of the articles seem to assume the reader lives in a large city where everything one could possibly need is a short walk away) had this recipe.
What you do, is take 1/4 cup good olive oil (it gave me a chance to open the new bottle of the Califonia Olive Ranch oil I bought this weekend) and heat over medium heat in a saucepan. Then, you cut up a clove of garlic (I had to use the Penzey's dried minced garlic; my head of garlic dried up on me when I wasn't looking) and put it in the oil for about 15 seconds. While that's heating up, open a 28 ounce can of peeled tomatoes. (I like the Cento brand, and also the kind I get tends to be VERY low in sodium). Crush the tomatoes in your hands and add them and the juice in the can to the pan with the olive oil. Add salt and pepper if you want. (I added a little white pepper and a little of an Italian herb blend - basil, oregano, rosemary). Stir periodically and cook over medium heat for 15 or 20 minutes until it thickens up.
I was surprised how good this was given the short cook time. Where I grew up, it was "traditional" for Italian-style tomato sauces to be something that was fussed over for a full day on the stove. (Yes, I know there are the lighter fresh-tomato sauces, but they weren't common when I was a kid).
I suspect a big part of it is having good ingredients; I'd rather make a simple few-ingredients recipe but use the best quality stuff I can get, than to do something that takes lots of fussing and lots of different steps. (I think of the Dirt Cake I made to bring in on my birthday last year, versus the hot-milk sponge cake that is my usual go-to cake when I need to take a cake somewhere: the Dirt Cake took OH SO MANY steps, and it used all kinds of convenience foods (like Cool Whip) I'd normally not buy...and it was kind of an effort to make, and I think I dirtied all my mixing bowls, whereas the Hot Milk Sponge cake takes two bowls (one for the flour, one for the eggs and sugar and other liquids) and it's made out of all stuff I have on hand ANYWAY all the time - eggs, milk, cake flour, sugar, baking powder. And I prefer it - it's a plain, simple cake, but it's just good. And you can do lots of things with it. I've frosted it, I've made that broiled topping that turns it into a Lazy Daisy cake, I've served it with just a fruit sauce, I've served it with chocolate sauce and whipped cream...(And, I notice, looking at the recipe again: it would not be very high in sodium. It's kind of sad that that's how I judge all foods now, but it is what it is.)
And the sauce recipe includes one of the things I love about cooking - the ability to be very hands-on. It's recommended you crush the tomatoes in your hands (though I suppose you could dump them in and crush with the back of a spoon). But there's something satisfying about doing it with your own hands, and I don't just mean the stress-relief of getting to crush something.
The original recipe had it served on top of bucatini, which were probably very good with it, but all I had was spaghetti, so that's what I used. Also, the original recipe had a dollop of ricotta on top. I wound up using a dollop of Greek yogurt. Now, that might initially sound odd, but hear me out - the other night my mom and I were talking on the phone about cooking and she mentioned that she'd seen some tv chef (Ina Garten, maybe?) who used Greek yogurt in lots of things; she even made an avocado dip by pureeing the avocado into Greek yogurt and using (I think) lemon juice and a little hot pepper in it. And my mom speculated that you could use the yogurt in place of cream in a cream-of-tomato soup recipe she had. And I got to thinking: Greek yogurt tastes kind of like ricotta, maybe it would work. And I tried it. And it was quite good; I actually wound up stirring the yogurt and sauce together in the dish to make more like a tomato-cream sauce.
I suspect if you wanted to make that creamy tomato sauce that some pasta dishes have, yogurt would be a good thing to use. It doesn't run the same risk of curdling that cream has, and it's lower in fat while still tasting creamy. Yes, it has that sour yogurt flavor, and if you don't like that, it's probably not for you, but I do like it and it goes surprisingly well with the tomato flavor.
As you might guess, the recipe makes a fair amount of sauce (from a 28 ounce can...). But - it's almost identical in composition to the recommended deep-dish pizza sauce in my big Cook's Country cookbook, and if I am energetic enough some afternoon when I get home from school this week, I might mix up a batch of the dough and make deep-dish pizzas. (I've made the recipe before and found it to be very good. Even with leaving most of the salt out of the dough and all of it out of the sauce)