An important first step to note when making this sauce is to bring the olive oil up to temperature very slowly with the garlic, herbs, and spices, and cook for about five minutes to brown the garlic. This is a step that Jack has seen referenced in a number of great Italian cookbooks and although not clearly stated why, we believe this slow heat-up process allows the oil to be infused with the seasonings providing a really delicious base to your sauce.
- ⅓ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 4 crushed garlic cloves
- ¾ cup chopped onion (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano, divided, or ½ teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, divided, or ½ tablespoon dried
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped mint, divided
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes or two quarts of freshly canned garden tomatoes
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Before you begin, pour your two cans of tomatoes into a bowl and crush with your hand. Don’t break them up too small, you want large chunks.
- In a large heavy bottomed pot with a lid, on a burner with no flame, pour in olive oil and add red pepper flakes, garlic, onion, most of the oregano, basil and mint (save a little bit of each for the end), sugar salt and pepper. Turn on the burner and slowly bring up to hot. When the onions and garlic start to cook, stir and heat for five minutes.
- Remove the pot from the burner and place a heat diffuser over the burner. Place the pot over the heat diffuser and add the tomatoes. Turn burner to medium high and stir until they start to boil. Then reduce to simmer, partially cover and simmer 90 minutes.
- After 90 minutes, remove from heat and add the reserved herbs and Parmesan cheese. Add the butter to round out the flavors. Stir again and serve.
The old saying about the sauce tasting better the next day reheated is true. It gives the flavors a chance to blend and mellow out.