November 1, 2014
Tuscany in the Autumn must be one of the most beautiful places on the face of the Earth. Neatly terraced rows of grapevines and perfectly manicured olive groves follow the contours of gently rolling hills below the region’s multitude of farm estates that grow, harvest , produce and sell their own vino and olio. Each one seems more idyllic than the last, if that’s possible. And, oh how can I forget the blues, greens, pinks, and orange of the ever changing Tuscan sky as its daily backdrop? Or the Italian people we met who were so friendly and genuinely happy to meet us as Cindy and I bungled very broken Italian and sign language in a feeble attempt to communicate. Fortunately, their English was far better than our Italian!
What trip to Tuscany would be complete without a cooking class? That is exactly what Cindy and I did at the home ( and guest house ) of Fulvio, a fun loving gregarious chef and our host for a five hour extravaganza of fabulous food, crisp refreshing local wines and endless conversations. Memorable to say the least. Delicious in its simplicity, Tuscan food is packed with flavor, but what was equally appealing is how nothing is wasted, even the hard, 5 day old bread that became the binder for a flavorful Panzanella. Cucina Povera, or Tuscan peasant cooking, under the watchful eye of Fulvio, became a feast for the senses, and a wonderful gift for us to bring back home and share with friends and family. The following is Tuscan Pomodoro Sauce, Fulvio’s way…
My Note: This style of cooking is short on measurements and long on seeing, smelling and tasting. I have tried my best to approximate the amount of ingredients whenever possible, but you will have to adapt these as you go along … all part of the fun and exploration!
4-6 pasta servings
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced.
1/4 cup ( or more to generously cover the bottom of a saute pan ) Extra virgin olive oil.
1 28 oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes.
1/2 generous teaspoon coarse sea salt.
1/2 generous teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
Pinch, or to taste, crushed red pepper.
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary.
Step 1: Open the can of San Marzano tomatoes and empty the juice and whole tomatoes in a bowl. With your hands, crush the tomatoes until smooth with just a light chunky texture. Set aside.
Step 2: In a saute pan placed on the stove top burner, pour in the room temperature olive oil and add the minced garlic. Turn on the burner to medium low and let the oil slowly come up to temperature. This method infuses the olive oil with an intense garlic flavor. Do not let the garlic burn but do let it get golden in color.
Step 3: As soon as the garlic begins to turn golden, pour the crushed tomatoes into the saute pan. Add salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. Simmer. Using a wooden spoon, chop and stir until the sauce has a smooth consistency. Taste occasionally and adjust spices as necessary.
Step 4: Once the sauce is the consistency and flavor that appeals to you, remove from heat, lay the rosemary sprigs on top of and in the sauce and allow to rest. The longer the resting period, the more that the flavors will blend together.
Use as you would on pasta, over chicken, with risotto or any other recipe that calls for a rich tomato sauce.