Napa Tomato Sauce is a simple marriage of fresh ingredients, it’s not your typical Sunday Sauce. Somehow pasta sauces got personal, and tomato sauce is no exception. My belief comes from the familial “Sunday Sauce” in the Italian American community. As a result, I have had friends inform me a tomato sauce I’m making is “wrong”. Surprisingly, in their mind any tomato sauce must be compared to Nona’s Sunday Sauce. In addition, I know they like to share the happy emotions of learning to make that sauce, in that regard they can be right.
For this reason, I’d like to offer a wonderful red tomato sauce for pasta and other uses, that is not a Sunday Sauce. While it may contain elements of a heavy meat-based sauce, it is just a simple tomato sauce that is extremely versatile.
Food and Wine
We found this Napa Tomato Sauce with close family on a wine trip to Napa. If you have ever been Napa you know it is a very special place. The unique nature of Napa and its sister Sonoma is complex. The endearing charm I love is the absolute marriage of food and wine. They are in perfect symbiosis, a balance that is palpable.
While on a wine expedition with some family, we were “roughing it” up in the wonderful town of St Helena. Home of the Culinary Institute of America we had a long late lunch at Copia, their restaurant. Because we were so effusive about this sauce, eventually we met the chef. Her preparation was so intelligent and compelling that we discussed it at length. The chef was more than willing to share the recipe and teach us how to make it. The benefit of dining in a food institute I guess.
Napa Tomato Sauce
All in all, this tomato sauce is absolutely exquisite in so many applications, try it with a frittata. Tomato and egg pairings are often overlooked, beyond ketchup. Or a dip for a potato dish. If you put it on the table It will go fast, that I can say for certain.
- One large can of San Marzano tomatoes
- 3 large garlic cloves peeled and cracked
- A small onion finely chopped
- 4-5 parmesan rinds
- 2 sprigs of basil stem and all
- A good glug of red wine
- Olive Oil
Mise En Place
Pour the tomatoes in a bowl and gently smash them, either by hand or with a spoon. Take care as they can tend to explode a bit. Put another way, you can accidentally wear tomatoes as well as cook them.
In a saucepan on medium heat, add a good glug of olive oil, and build a sofrito by warming the garlic and onions.
In about 5 minutes the onions will be fragrant and translucent, be sure to move them around we don’t want to brown them.
Add the tomatoes and remaining ingredients siring together. This red sauce will look a bit odd, with whole garlic, big parmesan rinds whole basil sprigs. In this case we are adding flavor to the tomato not ingredients.
Reduce to low heat and gently simmer for one hour, or until the sauce darkens.
The chef then told us to refrigerate overnight to deepen and meld the flavors of this red sauce. Before reheating remove the garlic, rinds, and basil.
Sadly, I rarely make this the day before, and it really does make a difference. If I make it the same day I try to at least let it sit as long as I can.
Before proceeding, no matter the time you have available, remove the big stuff.
It can be put in a blender or food processor on low for a smooth sauce or left chunky if you wish.
Pasta & Presentation Serve with your favorite pasta but be adventurous with your shape, try a pasta that will grab that deep red tomato sauce and not let go. As an example, any ridged pasta works great, something that will hold the sauce. I love radiatore, busiate, or fusilli. Another option is to catch the pasta in a shell, try cavatelli, Farfalle, creste di galli, or strozzapreti. Some of these are really fun to make as well.
Big reds are so nice with deep sauces. Of course, the grand dame is Cabernet Sauvignon of course, huge, dry and chewy. In contrast and for an unexpected twist I like a Cab Franc with this red sauce. I’m a really big fan of this wine, when produced as a single varietal it can be amazing. Big savory with high acidity, mouthwatering red bell pepper flavors. Medium fruit and body, but still the gravely terroir remain on the palate. This wine has interest, but not in the competitive way of Cabs, Pinots or Merlots. It is a bit unexpected.