Monday, May 18, 2009

Tomato sauce, blended

I use my stick blender a lot. It saves me the effort of transferring soup to a regular blender, or of pushing it through a mouli-legumes; and, because it is less efficient than those other devices, it leaves behind a rougher, more interesting texture.

I also use the stick blender when I make a tomato sauce with onions - I like to incorporate them in the sauce.

1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2tbsp olive oil
400g tin tomatoes (I use Cirio)
1/2tsp sugar
Bay leaf

In a heavy pan, and over a gentle heat, sweat the onions and garlic in the oil with a few grindings of salt (as recommended by Lisa in her comment on this entry) until golden - 10 to 15 minutes. Add more oil if the vegetables threaten to catch. Tip in the tomatoes. Add a little water to the tin, swirl it around to dissolve the tomato adhering to the sides, and pour this mixture into the pan too. Bring the contents to a simmer, and break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Now get to work with the blender - it will work less efficiently if you allow the sauce to reduce and thicken. (If I sweated carrot and celery with the onion and garlic, I am not sure that my blender would be able to break them down.)

Return the pan to the heat, add the sugar (tinned tomatoes usually benefit from a little sweetening) and bay leaf, and simmer until thickened. Check the seasoning.

We ate this sauce with meatballs. (A recipe for which, with a slightly different version of the sauce, is here.)


pablopatito said...

Jamie Oliver recommends breaking up tomatoes at the end of cooking, rather than the beginning, on the grounds that this will make the sauce less bitter. I don't know what the logic behind this theory is. I always use chopped tomatoes anyway. I also like to add a dash of balsamic vinegar and a few chilli flakes to my sauce at the end, but never add sugar.

I must have a bad technique, because I'm unable to blend tomato sauce with a stick blender without covering myself and my kitchen wall with a thin smattering of oily sauce.

Nicholas Clee said...

That's an odd theory. I don't understand the reasoning behind it either.

The trick with a stick blender - or with mine, anyway - is to hold it so that it always rests on the bottom of the pan. Lift it, and the sauce spatters.

Cirio chopped tomatoes have added salt, for some reason. The whole ones don't.

Elwyn stankiewicz said...

Dear Nicholas,

I find the stick blender very effective - especially for soups. I have a jug with a lid and a removable disc in the centre to blend without splattering the food as Pablopatito mentions - it is actually a Tupperware product and is very handy when making pancakes etc.

Perhaps the rationale behind Jamie Oliver's advice re the tomatoes is that a bitter taste is released when tomato pips are crushed and the longer they remain whole, the less time they have to release their bitter flavour into the dish. Many traditional French dishes use seeded tomatoes - I love the flavour released when biting into a tomato pip!