Right now, summer is a long way off. Hobart is in the middle of a cold, wet week: there was snow on the mountain on Monday; yesterday, it rained. And rained.
Right now, I have bright yellow jonquils nodding in my front garden, beneath the bare birches; freesias are starting to bud - a promise of a fragrant spring.
Right now, what I really miss about those distant summer months - beyond wearing sundresses and sandals, baring my limbs and toes - are tomatoes. Specifically, the juicy, flavoursome tomatoes grown by my father. I mean, it doesn't get any more 'summer' than this:
The only option at this time of year is tinned tomatoes, and what I need to make right now is a big batch of pasta sauce. A huge bubbling pot of red sauce, big enough to make lots and lots of portions for the freezer, to keep me going for the next month or two. A delicious tomato sauce that can be used for a hasty (but tasty!) bowl of spaghetti, or as the basis of a homemade pizza, or as the supporting sauce in a baked pasta dish like cannelloni. A sauce that can be jazzed up with some hot chilli or spicy chorizo, or enjoyed simply in all its rich tomatoey glory.
The adaptability of this simple sauce is what elevates it from being a reliable kitchen 'basic' to an essential pantry 'hero'.
Tomato pasta sauce
Extracted from my friend D, who is Italian and once worked as a chef in an Italian restaurant - so this must be pretty authentic. Be warned - you will never go back to store-bought sauce again.
You need a really big, heavy cooking pot as there is a lot of sauce and it's going to be on the stovetop for around 2 hours. I used my huge le Creuset pot.
- Roughly chop one medium carrot and 1 or 2* brown onions and put in a food processor.
- Peel 6 cloves of garlic and add them too. Then add in a good handful of parsley, and if it's summer time and it's growing, basil.
- Whizz the whole lot up til it's very, very finely chopped.
- In your cooking pot, add a very substantial amount of olive oil, heat then add the vegie mix. Cook it at a nice gentle sizzle for a good 15 minutes, stirring frequently. You want to still see some olive oil about the edges.
- Now take 5 or 6* 400 gram tins of the best quality (Italian, of course) peeled whole tomatoes. Put the tomatoes in the food processor (reserve the liquid) and whizz up til super smooth, then add to the cooking pot.
- Add the tomato liquid to the pot, and rinse the tins out with a little water and add that too.
- Add 400 grams tomato paste (I admit I only used half this, as it was already looking pretty rich to me).
- Add 2 level tbspns white sugar, a really good grind of black pepper, 1/2 tspn salt, a small 1/2 cup of white wine, and a very small knob of butter (I translate this as about 20 grams).
- Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, part-cover, and cook for 2 hours, stirring occassionally. It will look separated or 'curdled' perhaps, with the dark green of the olive oil - that is okay.