I tried Pellegrino Artusi’s tomato sauce and found it to be such a concentration of flavors that it looked like a bottle of passata from the previous year.
Books to read, recipes to try
I have an incredible backlog of recipes to try, some for the first time.
And the same goes for the books I buy that end up in the to-read pile.
Despite the backlog, there is one book that I flip through often.
Pellegrino Artusi’s L’Arte di mangiar bene (The Art of Eating Well), a 1960 vintage edition, is the Italian Cookbook for me.
I use it for different reasons, such as checking the ingredients and history of a recipe, but often I leaf through it for pleasure.
I let myself go to the pleasant reading of the recipes I find opening the pages at random and the social and historical introductions that refer to familiar places and characters.
Artusi, with his recipes and ingredients, tells a lot about Romagna and Bologna in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The historical characters are those I first studied in history books when I was a student and then as a researcher of contemporary history. Equally fascinating are the ‘nameless’ -but inspired by reality- personalities the gastronome met and got to know.
This magnificent work dedicated to home cooking is a fresco full of anecdotes and personal memories that, at times, make the book almost a diary and a history book.
The introduction to recipe No. 125, Tomato Sauce, tells of a certain priest from a certain town in Romagna who, because of his habit of wanting to put his “paw” into the private affairs of every family far beyond the call of duty, was renamed Don Pomodoro “by the witty people”.
It is an hilarious anecdote that says something important about the tomato.
Imported from America, was not used in cooking for a long time. But thanks to Artusi’s story, we know that in the second half of the 19th century, it was finally used in many recipes. And just as the nose of Don Pomodoro got into everyone else’s affairs, so did the tomato in Italian dishes.
Reading the recipe, I immediately loved its simplicity, and having some fragrant tomatoes in my hands, I tested it.
My Artusi tomato sauce and vegetable mill
You only need a few ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, onion, celery, basil, and parsley. My personal touch consists of laurel leaves and carrots.
The procedure is just as simple. As I’m reading, I realize that, oops, I don’t have a vegetable mill. Luckily, my mother-in-law helps me with hers.
Do you have a vegetable mill? Our homes are full of electric appliances, but the “old-fashioned” kitchen tools are not more so usual. I had the confirmation during the webinar dedicated to sauces that I did for Casa Artusi at Casa Artusi.
Among the participants, some didn’t have one. I’ll give you the same tip as that evening: if you don’t have one, you can use an immersion blender, but I think it’s worth buying a vegetable mill.
It’s cheap, takes up little space, and cleans up in a moment.
I haven’t returned hers to my mother-in-law yet.
A versatile sauce
As Artusi writes, this sauce has many uses. For instance, to accompany a boiled dish, dress pasta, or make risotto.
I confirm. And I raise you. What remains of the vegetables in the vegetable mill, after adding a drizzle of oil and a quick blend with the immersion blender, I used it as a rustic sauce to make croutons to serve as an appetizer while waiting for the first course dressed with the tomato sauce.
I chose long tomatoes, but the important thing is that they are firm and ripe.
It takes about 20 minutes of cooking and another 10 minutes between washing and cutting vegetables.
In half, I have prepared a super delicious sauce.
Please, don’t throw away the scraps, but use them to make a second sauce, thick and perfect for spreading on bread.
Buona cucina, Monica
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Using the thinner strainer of the vegetable mill results in a smooth sauce. I opted for the middle one and got a sauce that was not perfectly smooth but more rustic and very tasty. But you choose your way.
Tomato sauce, an Artusi’s recipe
List of Ingredients
1 small yellow onion
1 clove of garlic
½ celery stalk
1 small carrot
2 bay leaves
basil and parsley to taste
salt and olive oil to taste
Remove the skin from the garlic.
Clean the onion and cut it into slices.
Wash the basil, parsley, and bay leaves, dry, and chop the first two leaves with a knife, leaving the bay leaves intact and removing them from the sauce.
After washing the celery and carrot, chop the vegetables into small pieces.
Wash the tomatoes and chop them into large pieces.
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, add salt and oil generously, add the bay leaves, and put over the heat. Choose a small cooker with a medium flame.
Cook on little heat and vivid flame for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Just long enough to make the sauce creamy.
Remove the bay leaves and pass everything through a vegetable mill.
Choose the thickest vegetable mill filter for a smooth salsa and the intermediate for a more rustic sauce.
The sauce is ready.
Use what’s left of the vegetables and tomato skins as a topping for crostini: place the scraps in a bowl, add oil and a little water, and mix (you can blend to make it less coarse). Spread on toasted bread.