Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pasta with Tomato Sauce ~ Audrey Hepburn's Favorite Dish Done Two Ways

According to her son's memoir, Audrey absolutely loved pasta with a simple tomato sauce. She prepared it every week. She also loved chocolate, long walks, dogs and rose gardens. My kind of gal! 

Audrey Hepburn 

Audrey Hepburn

I've always been fascinated by the life of Audrey Hepburn. She survived a time of great turmoil, famine and war. I'm even interested in her favorite everyday activities and foods, probably because I enjoy some of the same things. There are few things better than coming home to a hot dinner of pasta with sauce after a long walk with my dog in the snow.

Pasta with a simple sauce, decadent brownies, pancakes and fluffy mashed potatoes...these are my comfort foods.

Audrey probably would have served this sauce over spaghetti. I read that she didn't add any meat to it. She liked to enjoy Pasta al Pomodoro in its most elemental, uncomplicated, vegetarian form. Depending on my mood and appetite, I either add ground beef or not. Either way, this is good eating. The gal certainly had great taste in clothes and food. Whenever I make it, I think of elegant Audrey.  

I use whatever pasta I happen to have in the cupboard. My motto is cooking should be carefree.  Serve whatever pasta floats your boat. It'll be just fine.

Simple Tomato Sauce Done Two Ways, Italian and Greek:
Serves 4-6

Some Notes:

There are two variations of this sauce. One is prepared the way Audrey would have liked it... classic, simple Italian. The other version has a Greek flare. These are my recipes. I love them both. I hope you do too!

The sauce has a fresh tomato flavor that's accented by herbs and spices. 
Serve it over pasta. Pair it with a green salad dressed with unfiltered extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze or two of fresh lemon and you're headed for my Mediterranean comfort zone.  

I use Muir Glen Organic tomato products for their fresh tomato flavor. 
The butter added at the end helps boost the mellowness and the flavor. Butter brings its own special richness and a comforting lushness to the sauce. A tomato is a fruit. We all know that butter goes well with fruit. Trust me on this one. If you're vegan, add a drizzle or two of olive oil in place of the butter. 

If there's any left over, you can save it. It tastes even better the next day. Top some sauteed chicken with it, adding some mozzarella or Parmesan cheese for a quick chicken Parmesan. It's wonderful with ravioli too. It's a great base for sauteed shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, lean ground beef, ground chicken or ground turkey. 

Serve with pasta. For a gluten-free choice, I like Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta with this sauce. For regular pasta, I like to use an Italian brand.

This recipe was mentioned by Cooking Channel's Bitchin' Kitchen via Twitter: "Do you know what Audrey Hepburn loved to eat? Learn to make it!"

You'll Need:
  • 2 28 ounce cans of Organic Muir Glen Whole Peeled Tomatoes (see notes)
  • 1 6 ounce can of Organic Muir Glen Tomato Paste 
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves grated on a microplane zester or smashed in a garlic press
  • 2 dried bay leaves (remember to remove them before serving the sauce)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of dried Italian seasoning. When adding it to this recipe, rub it between your fingers to release the flavor. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil. I use unfiltered.
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter (or more if you're feeling decadent).
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper and/or red chili flakes to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine (optional). Use wine that you would drink on its own. 
  • Pinch or two of sugar or a good drizzle of honey to smooth out the acid in the tomatoes.
  • To Serve: Parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella or an Italian cheese blend, fresh basil, parsley or herb of your choice
  • One pound box of pasta, cooked according to the package directions. 

The Rundown:

Place some olive oil in a medium to large deep pot and heat it up on medium heat. Add the diced onion, salt, pepper, chili flakes (if using) and Italian seasoning. Cook the onions until soft, being careful not to brown or burn them. Add more oil or a drizzle of water if necessary. It helps to cover the pot on occasion, stirring frequently. Once the onions are soft, add the whole peeled tomatoes. Use an immersion blender to puree everything until smooth. You can also use a regular blender or a food processor to do this.

Add the dried bay leaves, the tomato paste and a good pinch or two of sugar or drizzle of honey to balance the acid in the tomatoes. Adjust seasonings. Stir in the grated garlic and the wine (if using). Bring the sauce to a boil.

Turn the heat down to very low and simmer the sauce, covered, until everything tastes mellow and good, about 30 minutes or longer. The flavors will come together and soften with continued cooking. Remove bay leaves.

Turn off the heat and stir in the butter. 
If you're vegan, you can add more olive oil in place of the butter. 

Taste. Adjust seasonings again. Toss with or serve over cooked pasta with some grated Parmesan cheese, a sprinkling of red pepper flakes or freshly cracked black pepper and fresh basil or herb of your choice. Crusty bread, a green salad and/or a glass of the red wine you used in the sauce is great with it too. 


For a Greek Version With or Without Ground Beef: Saute a diced medium green pepper with the onion, add a pinch or two of ground cinnamon. I love Penzeys Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon more than words can say. In place of the Italian seasoning, add some dried marjoram and/or oregano. The cinnamon will be barely noticeable. It'll give the sauce a lovely Greek flavor that's delicious. You can also stir in 2 pounds of sauteed lean ground beef or ground chicken to the finished sauce for a hearty Greek meat sauce. When I was young, my mother always made it with ground beef. She called it her "Greek Spaghetti." It was one of our favorite meals. My husband now loves it too. Sprinkle over some freshly chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese or a shredded Italian cheese blend. Makes a large pot full. 

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