Let me issue a disclaimer up front: I am not Italian. I picked up a few tips from Italian folks on TV, but this recipe is all my own. It’s a yummy combination of a little bit of work, a little bit of cheat, considering the all-day simmering original.
I’m also not feeling the greatest today, thanks to ragweed season, so I’m gonna keep it short. (Hooray, the reader says.) I’ll get more into the ratatouille later.
The mise en place (all your ingredients set out beforehand) looks remarkably like a pantry shelf, and therein is the beauty.
This couldn’t be simpler. Get out your biggest pot. No, no, not the gargantuan pasta boiler for 30, but pretty big. Open the following cans and dump in:
- Two 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes (use San Marzano for an upgrade)
- One 28 oz. can of tomato sauce
- One half of a 6 oz. can of tomato paste
- Two tablespoons beef demi-glace (optional)
- One half-cup dry red wine (optional, especially if you use the demi-glace)
Also get together the following:
- Two garlic cloves
- Five to eight fresh basil leaves
- Two sprigs fresh thyme
- One sprig fresh rosemary
- Dried onion flakes
- Kosher salt
- Pepper grinder
I like my sauce pretty herby and spicy, so if you don’t, just cut down on the herbage.
Press the garlic cloves directly into the pot. If you don’t have a press, GET ONE for goodness sakes, but meanwhile you could mince them to death until they’re almost paste.
The basil part is pretty fun. Sure, you could throw in some dried basil, and I’ve done it before. But my mom had bushes of the stuff begging to be used.
Lay all the leaves on top of one another in a stack, then roll up the stack. Cut the roll into slices, and you’ll end up with lovely little ribbons called chiffonade. This refers to both the resulting ribbons and the technique. Now, chop up your ribbons (or don’t, up to you) and dump into your pot.
Next, hold the sprig of thyme securely on the woody stem end. With fingers of the other hand, strip off the leaves while pulling away with the stem. Put your results in the pot.
Rosemary, we have a problem. You’re too woody and bristly to just go right in. We don’t enjoy chewing you or picking you out of our teeth. So, you’re just gonna have to get pulverized.
Use the same technique as the thyme to remove the rosemary leaves onto a cutting board. Add a bit of kosher salt for traction, and using a chef’s knife, chop the bloody heck out of it. Get as close as you can to a grainy paste. Add to the mix.
Now add about three tablespoons of dried onion flakes. I’m actually allergic to the fresh variety, so I got stuck on doing it this way. It’s easier, and you get to skip the traditional step of sweating the onions and garlic.
If you like a little heat, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Word to the wise: kids don’t usually like this.
Add kosher salt (I did about two tablespoons, but I like salt!) and about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
Whisk everything together; you’ll have to put a little effort into breaking up the tomato paste and demi-glace. Cover and bring to a boil, then take back to a simmer, uncovered, for as long as you can….let’s say at least twenty minutes, and one hour would be better. All day is not necessary.
Confession: I HATE having tomato spatter all over my cooktop, so my sauce usually spends a good bit of time with the lid just cocked sideways. But I don’t get the evaporation necessary to get a really fabulous, rich sauce as quickly that way. Guess I need to invest in one of those spatter shields.
This should be enough sauce to use for one meal and freeze for one or two more.
Morgan and I made our ratatouille tonight (OK OK, I’ll give you one photo), and froze the remainder in two gallon freezer bags.
P.S. Sorry about the grainy, poorly lit photos. I’ve taken to using my iPhone for just about everything, but the camera just isn’t cutting it in the kitchen light. Will try other ones.
P.P.S. Guess I lied about keeping it short. But you’re still reading! 😛