A couple of years ago I was in the US of A for a short while. I stayed with Family and Friends right from the West Coast to the East Coast. I got a glimpse into their lifestyle, eating habits, culture - all in one go. An excellent experience which has been etched into my memory for years to come.
Being a person who cooks and being an in-house guest, it was an exciting time for the various families who were kind enough to take me in, to request my culinary skills which were to be put in use in their kitchens. USA being a wonderland for all things "kitchen" was an exhilaration time for me too and I was looking forward to try out cooking in a different country and a different kitchen. From barbecues in an actual backyard barbecue to pizzas from scratch, from cocktails in a well stocked bar to beer from tap, it was all culinary heaven. I picked up useful tips from typical American households which come in use even now.
The one thing I learnt was storing food, In America, a lot of emphasis is on stocking up refrigerators, freezers and cabinets with a lot of ready to (h)eat dishes. Sauces plays an important part in American cuisine, as this is one cuisine which is absolutely undemanding of time and easy if you have the right ingredients, hands on. Pasta and Salad being a staple in most homes, it continuously demanded innovation.
Arrabbiata Sauce being my favorite, and I am sure, a favorite with people world around. It did not take me long to figure out a simple yet delicious recipe for Arrabbiata Sauce, using fresh and canned local ingredients. It is to be made in bulk, set in freeze containers and frozen for use as and when needed. It turned out to be quite a hit with the hosts, they have access to pasta in a jiffy without having to depend on ready to heat cans/bottles of sauces available in supermarkets.
This popular Roman sauce combines the richness of fresh tomatoes, with the sauciness of canned tomato puree, hints of garlic and spicy chilli to replicate the typical Arrabbiata. Originally and contrary to the popular belief that basil should be used in anything remotely connected to Italy, in Arrabbiata, no basil is used. Of course, it does add a nice touch to the finished sauce and you may do with or without it. This sauce can be made back in any home, world around, too. The ingredients, though modified country-wise, ensure there is no compromise on the taste. This recipe is simple enough for a novice to follow yet professional enough to pass off as authentic.
We start off with taking about twelve firm and large tomatoes, washed and kept aside. Heat a large pot of water. Once its simmering, drop the tomatoes in the water and cook till the skin starts breaking. Drain the water in a separate bowl (you need to retain the water for the sauce) and spoon out the tomatoes carefully in a plate. Once cooled a bit, skin the tomatoes with your hands, the peel will come off easily. Splice and puree all the tomatoes in the mixer. You may retain a couple of tomatoes and chop them fine for a chunkier sauce.
Fresh Tomato Puree (as illustrated above)
One Large Can of Tomato Puree (2 Lbs) or 2 Packs of Tomato Concentrate Puree (Kissan, Godrej etc.)
2 Large - White Onions,chopped finely
8-10 pcs of Garlic - peeled and grated
1 tsp Dried Celery / Grated Fresh Celery
1 tablsp Cilantro / Coriander
1/2 Lemon - Juice
1 tablsp - chilli flakes
1 tsp - Your favourite mixed dried herbs / oregano
1 tablsp - chilli oil (optional)
3-4 Basil Leaves (optional)
1 tablsp Sugar
1/4 cup Ketchup
Salt and Pepper to taste
Proceed by heating two spoons of olive oil in a large pot, do not wait for it to smoke, within a few minutes add the onions and sweat on low till evenly translucent, turn up the heat, add a dash of olive oil and add the garlic, stir on high till the garlic and onions are aromatic, but do not brown. Add the sugar, stir and quickly add the fresh tomato puree and turn the heat to low. Simmer for a about 25 minutes, alternately adding a spoon of water (the water in which the tomatoes were simmered). You should be done once the simmered water is halved. This is an important step, as you go on heating the sauce, it releases water and needs to be replenished to maintain its consistency.
Proceed by adding the concentrate a cup at a time and the ketchup. turn the heat to a medium high and simmer. Be careful of splattering due to the quantity and the heat. Simmer for another half hour (again making use of simmered tomato water in case the sauce is turning too thick), add the lemon juice, cilantro/coriander, herbs, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. If using the chilli oil and basil, add it at this point too. Simmer on low heat for another fifteen to twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt and leave under a fan to cool.
To Store: Spoon out in a freezer proof container and freeze for over a month.
To use: Scrape and Scoop out a cup or two, depending on the number of people (1 cup is good enough for 4 people), thaw out naturally or in the microwave for a few minutes. You can enjoy this with virtually any pasta (and dont forget the wine), be it - Penne, Spaghetti, Ravioli or Linguine. Eat your hearts out and experiment with your favorite condiments such as peppers, olives, cheese, onions, chicken, vegetables... the list goes on.
Incidentally, this freeze is a definite must have for all you "stay alone" people. You wont regret stocking this in your freezer 24 x 7