To say that I like Italian cooking would be a gross understatement. To say that I love Italian cooking...now, we're getting somewhere. Being married to a half-Italian man is both awesome (the food! the passion! the family!) and incredibly intimidating (the food! the passion! the family!). Having met him (along with at least thirty of his relatives) for the first time at his family's annual traditional "Italian Night" feast, I had a feeling that I'd fall in love with him and all he came with, secret recipes and all.
Although I love to cook and experiment with ingredients that are otherwise foreign to me and my kitchen origins, I had my work cut out for me. I had meatballs to live up to, lasagna to perfect, and sauce to master. The truth is, though, admittedly, it's very hard for me to adhere to a recipe word for word. I can be exacting, but when it comes to food, I believe in trial by fire (quite literally). Needless to say, my "versions" of family recipes are always just slightly ...different. ;-)
I decided to make eggplant parmesan the other day. It was a Monday and while it doesn't always work out this way, I have been trying to make "Meatless Mondays" a thing in our household. Why not? It can't hurt to cut out meat (at least) once a week. I started looking through my cookbooks and scouring Pinterest boards. It's the middle of August and we are in prime tomato season. Forget canned tomatoes! I wanted a sauce recipe using fresh ones! And then I found it: Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce.
A little bit about Hazan: from what I've gathered, she's basically the Julia Child of Italian cooking. She wrote a book called The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that is just as ubiquitous as Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Interestingly, despite having no kitchen background, she made it a mission of hers to learn how to cook for her new husband shortly after they married. In her years, she taught cooking classes from their small New York apartment kitchen and eventually wrote books. The rest, as they say, is history.
So what makes this sauce so special? It has four ingredients. FOUR. Tomatoes, one onion, butter (you guys, butter), and salt. That's it. Huh? Where's the garlic? Where's the basil? Where's the whatever-else-you-want-to-put-in-your-sauce to make it sauce? I had to take everything I had ever learned or read about making sauce and shove it in a drawer, to be opened at a later date. I was determined to try Hazan's sauce but just as I mentioned earlier, I couldn't help but divert from the original recipe. Instead of using canned tomatoes, I opted for the beautiful fresh yellow and red ones I had sitting on the counter just waiting for their opportunity to shine.