Pizza, Pasta, Gelato. These three were eaten on repeat by us vegetarians during our recent trip to food heaven - Italy. I kept telling myself, "Oh I won't get sick of this...It's so good..How could I?!" Little did I know, I actually craved anything but carbs toward the end of our trip. No carbs?! Did I just say that? I couldn't believe it myself but a few times I actually just ordered a salad with tomatoes and pesto and voluntarily skipped the bread. I was craving fresh vegetables like no other and Indian spices, of course. Thankfully, we found an awesome Indian restaurant in Florence, which we went to twice because we were in serious daal withdrawal. I know, I know...it's a sin to eat anything but Italian food in Italy so forgive my taste buds.
Ok let's talk about pasta sauce. While we were in Rome, Vatican City to be exact, we saw many restaurants next to each other competing for customers. Ris Cafe met our criteria for having "free wi-fi," so we were sold. Turns out that we all fell in love with their food...so much that we ate there three times during our 4 day stay in Rome! Their tomato sauce was ahhh-mazing and the pasta was perfection. I kept asking our server questions about all their dishes and she asked me if I was in the food industry. I was flattered and showed her The Mess I Make. I took this opportunity and swooped in with the annoying question, "Is there any way I can get the recipe for your tomato sauce?" To my surprise, I was escorted to the owner of the restaurant who quickly shared the recipe. Unfortunately, without exact proportions. So I used my culinary judgement and guessed the proportions from a previous tomato sauce recipe I made and after a few tries, viola, it worked!
I made this sauce for my cousins who visited Italy last year and they sent me the best text, "The pasta sauce was delicious... Reminded us of Italy."
1, 28 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
14 basil leaves - chopped in ribbons
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of water
1/2 tsp salt, add more if needed
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, adjust per your taste preference
Pinch or two of sugar, if the sauce is too tart
- Puree the canned whole peeled tomatoes in a blender.
- Finely chop the garlic cloves, sprinkle some salt and set aside.
- Heat extra virgin olive oil in a heavy bottom pot on medium-low heat.
- Lower the heat a bit and add chopped onions, cook for about 2-3 minutes until the onions become translucent. Don't let them turn brown.
- Add chopped garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Be sure to stir every few seconds to prevent the garlic from browning or getting burnt, you can reduce the heat if necessary.
- Add pureed tomatoes, water, salt and crushed red pepper. Bring the heat up to medium-high to bring the sauce to a boil. Once the sauce starts bubbling, lower the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer for about an hour or until the sauce reduces to half and thickens.
- Add freshly chopped basil and serve with your favorite pasta.
Pasta cooking tip
Boil a large pot of water, add a few pinches of salt, then add the pasta. Let the pasta sit in boiling water until they're almost cooked but not quite al dente (firm to bite), meaning they should be just a bit undercooked. Reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta. In the same pot or another heavy pot, add the pasta sauce, reserved pasta water and the slightly undercooked pasta and finish cooking it off in the pot on medium-high heat. This helps the sauce seep into the pasta and flavor it really well.
This sauce accompanied by pasta from Italy made great souvenirs.
Edible souvenirs are the best!
Ris Cafe's Gnocci and Ravioli with tomato sauce.
Sneaking in some selfies.
Ricotta-Pistachio gelato & Gnocci that melted in our mouths!