Basic Tomato Sauce (Saltsa Domata)

In the winter, when good, ripe tomatoes are not available, use canned, or slice and roast the pale available tomatoes to make them more flavorful. Instead of sugar, I like to sweeten the sauce with currents.  

Beyond pasta, the sauce can be used on flat,  breads complemented with crumbled feta or any other cheese. It is the basis for the vegetarian mousaka, and also for the stuffing for papoutsakia (eggplant slippers), with the addition of chopped, sauteed bell peppers and feta, graviera or any other cheese, with or without walnuts, or other nuts.

Yields about 3 cups sauce, enough for 1 pound pasta          

1/3  cup olive oil

1 cup coarsely chopped red onions

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup sweet wine, such as Mavrodaphne or sweet Marsala

½  to 1  teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4–1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 1/2 cups ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds) halved and grated on an onion grater, or chopped –not seeded OR one 16-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves (or 1-2 rosemary or thyme sprigs)

Salt

Sugar (optional) or a handful of currents

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the onions over medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until glossy.

Add the wine and pepper and simmer 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves, salt and, if you like,  a handful of currents or 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste.

Bring to a boil,  reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

Remove from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.

If you like the sauce smooth, pulse with a stick-blender. I prefer my sauce chunky.

The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 days, but if you like to make a big batch, you can freeze part of it.

 

 

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