This is my first instructable - I have had many ideas for what my first should be, but it seems I never have time to compile them into an instructable. Among my many hobbies is cooking, and I have always been somewhat famous for my spaghetti... which is of course all about the sauce, no? Since I have had a few friends bugging and begging me for a recipe (which I have never strictly had a recipe as much as a method), I decided to take the time to compile a whole bunch of information for some of them. And since I have been being so lazy/procrastinatory about getting an instructable done in the year or two I have been a member, well it all came together.
I am going to try and provide a lot of educational information in addition to the actual methodology/recipe for making a great homemade red sauce. That's just my style. As you can probably already tell, I am a very wordy person and tend to over-explain. This comes from a lifetime of teaching and tutoring others. If you feel I am spending too much time on a simple thing, simply move on to the next step!
I will also put in a disclaimer; I do not have a quality camera, and in searching the web for images to use, I have come across many websites with similar methodologies to mine - no big surprise; how I do what I do is not exactly a super secret (at least not in regards to cooking). I have no private recipes handed down for generations; merely lots of experience and trial and error, combined with a bit of formal culinary education. I'll list a few of these websites in the final step below. None are the sole source for any of my information, and in fact while many reflect what I am posting, very little is influenced by these or modified from what I would have written down if I hadn't gone searching for images... so feel free to peruse the links and you may find some of THEIR secrets I don't mention or use in this instructable.
Step 1: A brief history
I knew some of this from my brief stint in culinary school oh so long ago, and some I just recently picked up online. If you're not interested in history... skip this step.
On Italian based tomato sauce in general;
The misconception that the tomato has been central to Italian cuisine since its introduction from the Americas is often repeated. Though the tomato was introduced from the Spanish New World to European botanists in the 16th century, tomato sauce made a surprisingly late entry in Italian cuisine: in Antonio Latini's cookbook Lo scalco alla moderna (Naples, 1692). Latini, not unsurprisingly, was chef to the Spanish viceroy of Naples, and one of his tomato recipes is for sauce alla spagnuola, "in the Spanish style".
Outside of Italy, the role of tomato sauce can be quite exaggerated: many people know little of Italian cuisine beyond pasta with tomato sauce. Italian varieties of tomato sauce range from Pasta Puttanesca sauce, seasoned with anchovies, capers, garlic, chilli peppers and black olives, to Bolognese sauce, a predominantly minced or ground meat sauce which normally contains a small-to-moderate amount of tomato.
Most often, Italian tomato sauces can be switched with more authentic white sauces; cavatelli is best served with traditional Italian white sauces (consisting of mostly fresh Parmesan and cream), and many other traditional ingredients.
Some Italian Americans on the East Coast refer to tomato sauce as "gravy", "tomato gravy", or "Sunday gravy", especially sauces with a large quantity of meat simmered in them, similar to the Italian Neapolitan ragu. "Gravy" is an erroneous English translation from the Italian sugo which means juice, but can also mean sauce (as in sugo per pastasciutta). The expression for "gravy" in Italian is sugo dell'arrosto, which is literally "juice of a roast" and is specifically not tomato sauce.
On 'Italian American' tomato sauce (what I'm covering in this instructable);
In most of the U.S. (my country of origin), "tomato sauce" refers to a tomato puree with salt and small amounts of spices sold in cans. This product is considered incomplete and not normally used as it is. Instead, it is used as a base for almost any food which needs a lot of tomato flavor, including many versions of the sauce described on this page.
Marinara Sauce is an American-Italian term for a simple tomato sauce with herbsmostly parsley and basilbut, contrary to its name (which is Italian for coastal, seafaring) without anchovies, fish or seafood. In other countries marinara refers to a seafood and tomato sauce.
American supermarkets commonly carry a variety of prepared tomato sauces described as "spaghetti sauce" or "pasta sauce". Common variations include meat sauce, Marinara Sauce and sauces with mushrooms or sweet red peppers.
On the tomato itself;
The tomato is native to South America. Genetic evidence shows that the progenitors of tomatoes were herbaceous green plants with small green fruit with a center of diversity in the highlands of Peru. These early Solanums diversified into the dozen or so species of tomato recognized today. One species, Solanum lycopersicum, was transported to Mexico where it was grown and consumed by prehistoric humans. The exact date of domestication is not known. Evidence supports the theory that the first domesticated tomato was a little yellow fruit, ancestor of L. cerasiforme, grown by the Aztecs of Central Mexico who called it xitomatl, meaning plump thing with a navel, and later called tomatl by other Mesoamerican peoples. Aztec writings mention tomatoes were prepared with peppers, corn and salt, likely to be the original salsa recipe.
Tomatoes are now eaten freely throughout the world, and their consumption is believed to benefit the heart among other things. They contain lycopene, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants. In some studies lycopene, especially in cooked tomatoes, has been found to help prevent prostate cancer but other research contradicts this claim. Lycopene has also been shown to improve the skin's ability to protect against harmful UV rays. Natural genetic variation in tomatoes and their wild relatives has given a genetic treasure trove of genes that produce lycopene, carotene, anthocyanin, and other antioxidants. Tomato varieties are available with double the normal vitamin C (Doublerich), 40 times normal vitamin A (97L97), high levels of anthocyanin (P20 Blue), and two to four times the normal amount of lycopene (numerous available cultivars with the high crimson gene).
Though it is botanically a berry, a subset of fruit (as almost everyone probably knows), the tomato is nutritionally categorized as a vegetable (did you know that?). Since "vegetable" is not a botanical term, there is no contradiction in a plant part being a fruit botanically while still being considered a vegetable.
Tomatoes are used extensively in Mediterranean cuisine, especially Italian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The tomato is acidic; this acidity makes tomatoes especially easy to preserve in home canning whole, in pieces, as tomato sauce, or paste. Tomato juice is often canned and sold as a beverage; Unripe green tomatoes can also be breaded and fried, used to make salsa, or pickled. The fruit is also preserved by drying, often by sun, and sold either in bags or in jars in oil.
Okay, enough with the lessons already; if you still want to know more, google is your friend!