Italian basics

Ever since this Smitten Kitchen post, we’ve been looking forward to a night of pasta with tomato sauce for its rave reviews and absolute simplicity (3 ingredients, no prep work!).  Since no dinner could be quite that simple, we experimented with a calamari appetizer as well.

This pasta sauce recipe seemed like it would give our homegrown heirloom tomatoes a place to shine. We had frozen 3 good-sized plum tomatoes last fall; now, we thawed them in some warm water before starting the recipe. We also (separately) made sauce from one can of whole tomatoes just as SK did.  Above is our lo-fi homage to SK’s photo-summary of all three ingredients: tomatoes, butter, and onion.

The calamari (~3/4 lb.) was washed and sliced and added to 2 T butter and 2 cloves of garlic, just beginning to brown.  The calamari gave off a lot of liquid and I was worried that it would cook too long to get all the water off, but it softened nicely over that time. We used a dash of red pepper flakes and some dried thyme to season. We added <1/4 C white wine and just a dash of red wine vinegar to deglaze the pan and the juices thickened into a rich brown sauce in a couple of minutes.

We served it with a few more red pepper flakes and thyme as well as some s&p and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese (which I thought worked really well).  Some of the calamari were slightly chewy, but it was unclear whether it was the calamari we bought or the way we cooked it; the flavors in the sauce were wonderful and made the dish very successful overall.  Maybe a little more vinegar next time?

For the homegrown tomato sauce (on the right), we used 3 T butter and half an onion, compared with 5 T butter and a whole onion for the can of tomatoes (on the left).  Both simmered on low to medium heat for at least 45 minutes.  The tomatoes didn’t completely fall apart in that time, though any small chunks dissolved wonderfully in my mouth.  SK was right—we could not get enough of this sauce and it didn’t need anything with it!  The homegrown tomatoes added a very distinct flavor that dsd really liked, but ib was more overwhelmed by maybe too much butter in that sauce.  The canned tomatoes came out nice and rich and a bit of each sauce mixed together worked very well, too.  For its flavor and the complete lack of effort required, there is no reason not to make this all the time!

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