15 January 2013

Quick "Tomato Sauce"

Yes, I'm using scare quotes around tomato sauce. Why? Because I don't want to get (1) angry letters from chefs or (2) death threats from Italians who know what real tomato sauce is. Why am I posting it then? Because it's really really quick, and still serviceable. I noticed one day that I was looking for a cheap tomato sauce in a jar, because I was tired after work, and wanted to make a quick dinner. However, I read the ingredients, and they were water, tomato paste, spices, modified food starch, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated cottonseed, canola, or soybean oil, and salt. I have no objection to salt. I love it. I also like tomato paste. But what the heck is modified food starch? Why are they using partially hydrogenated oil? And why the heck does my savoury tomato sauce need high fructose corn syrup? I HATE sweet sauces for pasta.

So, I got to thinking that if I were to make my own version, I'd use real tomatoes (or tinned diced tomatoes) along with the tomato paste, some spices, a bit of oil, and corn starch to thicken it up if necessary. Fast forward to tonight, when I opened the pantry to see that there was no diced tomato to be found. Drat. Also, I'm out of olive oil, and I'm not about to buy any more in the near future. Double drat. Also, it was past 8:00. I didn't want to make a trip to the store, because I was hungry right then, and didn't want to put back on my shoes and coat, go all the way down the four flights of stairs, and walk across the street to the dollar store to grab some tinned diced tomato. So I improvised.

I will repeat myself: this is not authentic tomato sauce. It most closely resembles a flavourful version of the jarred stuff. It's also really quick. The gin was there because I have it around the house. I don't care for vodka, and generally, wine doesn't last but a day, because if I have a bottle of wine, I'm calling friends over to help drink it. Also, gin has all kinds of botanicals in it, giving the final sauce a really nice flavour. Trust me. Use the gin. All said and done, this barely took 10 minutes or so, including chopping time. It's a lot cheaper (for me) to buy a large can of tomato paste, and make this sauce at home than it would be to spend $3+ for a jar of the sugar filled one from the store. It was also really quick.

1 TB vegetable oil of your liking
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup gin (substitute water if you don't have gin)
1 cup water
2 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup of water from the ingredient above this one
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1 tsp garlic powder

In a pot, heat up the oil and the onion. While the onion cooks, add the oregano, red pepper flakes, and thyme. When the onion cooks through and is softened, add the tomato paste, and stir well. Cook over high heat for about two minutes or so. You want the raw taste of the tomato to cook out, and the paste itself to lightly coat the bottom of the pot.

When you have some coating going on, throw in the gin. The tomato and gin will smell pretty great. Add about 3/4 of the water (using the last 1/4 cup or so to dissolve the cornstarch). Add the garlic powder, and stir well. Let the water come to a boil, and let it boil for about five minutes. Keep boiling, and add the cornstarch dissolved in water. Let the whole sauce come up to the boil for about a minute, until it thickens to your needs. Toss with 1 lb of pasta.