Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm about to do something contraversial . . .

. . .and generally out of character for me, and my blog. I like to embrace balance, harmony, peace and quiet reflection. I endeavor when possible to be as much a living, breathing, Zen Koan as one woman can be.

So it is not lightly that I choose to make the following statement and in essence stir up a mess 'o somethin' here.

"Sauce/Gravy/whatever you call" it that goes into pretty much anything Italian red in color is NOT supposed to be SWEET like Candy.

Hold it, hold it, HOLD IT!!! Settle down please!!!

Okay, now that I have your attention.

I know, there are those who claim it needs sugar - (WTH! SUGAR?) - as it's primary ingredient or it's not authentic, well I'm sorry but I don't agree. The primary ingredient is supposed to be tomato, and in a good Italian Sauce one never adds sugar. Like ever, not a dash, not a pinch, not even a light wave over the pot. It's the combination of long duration, low temperature, cooking of the right ingredients, that brings out the natural sweetness of what goes into the mix, it's even one's choice of tomatoes, types of onions, garlic, basil . . .

. . . there's an endless list of ingredients that make or break a good slow cook sauce. Closest one should get to sugar in a good sauce is whatever sugar there is in the wine ones cooks with if one is making that type of sauce.

But. Never. Sugar.

Not in the mood to make something from scratch? That's fine, I understand, just read your labels. If the word sugar is even on the label, think twice about using it. If it's in the top five ingredients, think of taking it to a toxic waste Superfund site for proper disposal.

If HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP shows at any level of ingredients, immediately seal it in plastic, scrub down, and turn it over to your local Hazardous Waste Specialists. Every county has a HAZMAT team these days.

A good sauce can be as simple as tomatoes, garlic, onion, olive oil and time to let it all "cook down" to the desired consistency. Even the simplest of sauces my Mom used to make (when she didn't "doctor up" something else) took at least a day to make right if from scratch. Now don't be frightened by this, done right it doesn't mean slaving away all day over a stove. It means getting it started in the morning, and then letting it cook over the course of the day, stirring occasionally while it slow cooked over low temps all day long.

You can get fancy, and creative, worrying the right notes of what type of Tomato(s) to use, types of garlic, onion, basil . . .

. . . pretty much every ingredient that goes into a good sauce has a "note," it's own unique characteristics that it brings to the sauce over time. Want "sweeter" less tangy sauce? Use plumb tomatoes, roasted garlic and vidalia onions. When I say roasted garlic I mean soak it in EVOO, wrap it in tin foil, and bake it until it turns all liquid inside. The garlic will come out of the clove in a gush of liquid garlic yumminess simply by squeezing it. Not a fan of vidalia onions? Take a sweet yellow onion, dice it up, and lightly caramelize it in some EVOO before you add it to the pot. Instant magic.

There are so many different ways, I could talk about adding "sweet" notes to a sauce, for months. I'm not even kidding.

Want something fast, healthy and out of a jar? Make sure sugar doesn't appear on the label, and feel free to experiment. I'm a fan of Classico as a good base myself. I often flavor my garlic with Classico and oh my do they have an amazing variety of sauces to play with as a starting point.

Not one of them has sugar in the ingredients list.


Simone said...

I totally agree Samantha. Putting sugar in a sauce does something weird to the acidity that is very unpleasant to my taste. I can't describe it but I can detect it every time. I grow my own tomatoes and they are plenty sweet. We went on vacation last month to Italy and I was talking with a well known chef there about using sugar and he said, "no, no, no, never". Then he back tracked a bit saying, "well okay, there is one very rare tomato (I don't remember the name) that is so acidic that sugar is a quick fix but otherwise no.

I just discovered your delightful blog Samantha and and I love your style!!! I throughly enjoy reading brilliant blogs like yours. I have a voracious appetite for reading and I really appreciate the way you carefully craft your blogs. We have such a rich and diverse community and I just wish more people would share their lives the way you do. I'm signing up! ~ w/Luv, Simone

Samantha said...

Thanks you so much for your kind words Simone, I always welcome feedback. Especially like this! Welcome to my long strange trip and may you enjoy reading as much as I do the writing of it.