friday night tomato tasting.

This post was a draft from 2006 or 2008 or something. I'm finally publishing it because it documents the beginnings of what I've come to think of as "my red sauce", even though it's totally Clare's red sauce.


Last week Clare called and asked where would I get tomatoes if I were making a tomato-crayfish soup for a dinner and the tomatoes needed to be righteous. And I, only knowing what I read on eGullet, said "Well, I'd use canned instead of fresh, and I'd go to Caulils and get some San Marzanos." And after some further dicking about we hung up.

Afterwards, I started thinking that hmm I bet those San Marzanos are pretty expensive. And it's not like the tomatoes I normally use are bad, in fact I think they're pretty good, I get them from the Turkish guys. And even the Italian ones from the Dirk aren't bad. And then I started feeling bad that I sent her off to buy these luxury tomatoes when Dirk would've done. And THEN I started thinking what do I really know about tomatoes anyway.

This is all just to give you the hypothetical reader an insight into the nitty-gritty of my vast, nearly inhuman intellect. THEN, this week we were talking and I asked Clare how the San Marzanos had worked out and she said they had a "great depth of flavor", but her vast, nearly inhuman intellect had been wondering how much better they really were than the other Italian brand at Caulils for half the price, or for that matter: how much better were they than the priced-to-sell Italian tomatoes at our local budget grocery store? Hmm...great minds do think alike.

So Clare suggested that a tasting was in order, and this is one of the many reasons to love Clare. Her plan was to use the simplest possible tomato sauce recipe, something she referred to as pasta napoli (more on this eventually), from which we'd make 3 versions of the sauce, each with a different brand of tomatoes. The contestants: Agrigenus San Marzano (2.50/can); Mutti (1.20/can); and the Dirk van der Broek's brand called:

Yes. And Mara costs 0.19 cents per can. Let the jokes begin.


Although I wish we'd had more standardized cooking equipment to test with, or just the tiniest bit of experience with the scientific method in general, I think we came to some conclusions that are based at least partially in fact. All sorts of details will follow when I get to them, but the upshot is: a 2.50 euro can of tomatoes is very different from a 0.19 cent can of tomatoes, but you don't need to spend 2.50 euro on a can of tomatoes.

easy red sauce. 

So for each can of tomatoes you use, you add to the pan: 1 small glug of red wine, 1 clove of garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1 glug of olive oil, 1 grind of black pepper and 1 pinch of salt or smoked salt. And maybe 1 pinch of smoked paprika if you feel spicy. Oh and 1 tsp of sugar towards the end. So just do this for every can of tomatoes, I usually do 2 or 4. Here's 2.

2 cans cheap canned whole tomatoes
2 glugs of decent red wine
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small bay leaves
2 glugs good olive oil
2 tsp unrefined sugar

Put everything except the sugar in a saucepan on the lowest heat possible. Let it cook until the tomatoes fall apart, this usually takes 60-90 minutes for the Dirk's tomatoes. After 45 minutes add the sugar, and after 15 more minutes start tasting for salt and sugar levels.


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