Simple Tomato Sauce (Sugo di pomodoro)

Adapted from Florentine: The true cuisine of Florence by Emiko Davies

Back in May, Dono and I traveled to Florence and we took a cooking class where we made a 3 course meal, one of them including a simple tomato sauce over tagliatelle pasta. Incredibly, it was one of our best meal in Europe! Unfortunately, the recipe booklet they gave us did not exactly match the sauce we made, so I have been unsuccessfully trying to recreate that sauce.

I was craving a good, simple tomato sauce to go with my pasta. While shopping around the Market Hall in Rockridge, Oakland, I noticed a book that was titled “Florentine” by Emiko Davies while waiting for my cut-prosciutto order. Flipping through it, I found a simple recipe for tomato sauce! Did it taste good? I had to buy the book to try it out. When I finally cooked it, it tasted great! Highly recommend you to check out her book!

However, there were some tweaks that I had made to the recipe to better suit Dono’s taste. We both are a huge fan of flavors, especially garlic. So I added 4 times the amount. I also added half of a shallot to add a more fragrant onion flavor. As for the tomatoes, I always tried to use fresh tomatoes as we always have plenty growing the in garden during the summer. However, I noticed that Emiko uses canned tomatoes. For one, it really cuts down the cooking time because you’re cutting down time for the sauce to reduce and thicken. So, I decided to follow suit with a 28 oz canned whole-peeled tomatoes. Why whole? I like to control the texture of my sauce with my immersion blender. For tomato soup, I like to have it runny smooth while for tomato sauce, I like it a bit more pulpy. Also, in the interest of washing fewer dishes, I  did everything in one pot.

This sauce is one that tastes a whole lot better the morning after. And it freezes well, so make a big batch for a time-saving meal. Slap it on some pasta or do what I did and buy cheese tortellini from Costco and slap this sauce onto there for a quick meal. It’s good with almost anything!

1 onion, diced
1/2 shallot, diced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 clove of garlic, minced
10 basil leaves
28 oz canned whole-peeled tomatoes
28 oz water (yes, use the same can to measure!)
Salt and Pepper
Heat heavy pot with oil over medium heat. Add the onion and shallot into the pot and saute until softened (about 10 mins). Okay to put onion and shallot into pot before oil warms. Add a small pinch of salt.
While the onions are cooking, take an immersion blender and blend the tomatoes to the consistency of your liking, either pulpy or runny smooth. Set aside.
As the onion softens, add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more until the garlic becomes fragrant (do not let it brown/burn). Add the basil and stir for about 30 seconds until you can smell the basil aroma.
Pour the tomatoes and the water into a pot with a pinch of salt (be sure to taste) and heat mixture over medium-high heat until it begins to simmer.
Once the sauce begins to simmer, turn it down to a low simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour until it has thickened to your preferred consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.




Stir-fried Bok Choy, Cantonese-style

If you have had the chance to join a meal in a Cantonese home, you may have noticed that  majority of the dishes, if not all, are vegetable-based. Maybe the reason is that vegetables are almost always the cheapest source of food, or maybe it’s because there are so many vegetable options in Chinese cuisine! From bok choy to rapeseed leaves to chayotes (we call them hap jeung gwa), I love them all!

Vegetables are an integral part of my family’s diet. Stepping foot into my mom’s garden, you can immediately find yourself immersed into patches of young tender mustard greens  at your foot with vines of chayotes hanging down from above. Nothing beats freshly plucked greens from a garden. But if you don’t have the luxury of growing your own or knowing someone who does, you can still find a great variety of Asian veggies at farmer’s markets or Asian grocery stores. If you have never ventured into the Asian produce aisles, I challenge you right now to just go over there and pick a new variety to try out!

The simplest yet tasty method of cooking vegetables is the Cantonese way of partial steaming/stir-frying. And it only requires at most 4 ingredients  in which 3 of them I’m 99% sure you already have at home (plus salt for seasoning)! Cantonese cooking places a great amount of emphasis on the natural taste and texture of fresh ingredients and I believe this recipe definitely exemplifies this philosophy. This recipe works with a great variety of veggies (broccoli, all types of bok choy, kale, napa cabbage). Gai Lan and string beans, however, tastes best with a different method, so stay tuned for my post on those.

1 bundle of bok choy
3 cloves of garlic, minced or whole as preferred (add more for a garlickier taste)
For bok choy, be sure to thoroughly rinse off all soil. Heat up the oil in a pan with a lid large enough for all of the vegetable to fit. When the oil is shimmering but not smoking, carefully add the garlic into the oil.
As the garlic becomes fragrant but not yet browned, add in the bok choy (browned garlic will turn bitter). Stir the bok choy to nicely coat it with the oil. Add about 3 tbsp of water, just enough to create a small layer of water at the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan, leaving a slight slit for steam to vent. Let the vegetable steam until the vegetable is cooked but tender, about 4-5 minutes.
Uncover and season the vegetable with salt to taste. Stir so the salt is nicely infused throughout. Remove from heat and quickly plate the vegetable so they do not continue to cook in the pan.