This will undoubtedly be your “Go To” tomato sauce and you will use it with everything you possibly can.
Not only is this sauce inspired by my Italian honeymoon, but I also found a very similar version from Thomas Keller in his fine cookbook, “Ad Hoc At Home.” Together it is a dreamy combo! And it’s so frickin easy!
The reason why this is so interesting is that there are a couple of ingredients I doubt you put in your tomato sauces. As fate would have it, while staying in our Moneglia AirBnB, I had to use the local ingredients, whatever they had and/or was in season. So, using the fennel and leeks was just what was done. And what a great surprise.
I am sharing (basically) Thomas Keller’s oven roasted way of doing the sauce. But for my version, I did it all on stovetop. I added pan seared prosciutto to start and then added a little red wine (whatever we discovered that day), and I would add fresh rosemary, butter, and top with parmesan. Add whatever you like. But his base is crazy good, so let’s start with his recipe. I have simplified it to make it easy for you to cook it up for your dates and store as much as you can. But I doubt it will last long!
1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped (save the stalks for other things-look up ideas online HERE)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 leak, finely chopped (only use the bottom white part, say about 6 inches of the leek, clean it like THIS)
2 TBSP Brown Sugar
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 TBSP minced garlic
2 32 oz cans of diced San Marzano tomatoes (He uses whole tomatoes and drains, chops, and purees half of them)
1 sachet (herbs tied in a cheesecloth packet) add 10 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 3 thyme sprigs, one garlic clove peeled and smashed) if you like, just throw in the bay leaf and time and fish them out later. As for the peppercorns, well, figure it out.
-Preheat oven to 350
-Pour olive oil, fennel, onion, leek, and garlic in an oven proof pot. Sprinkle with salt. Put in oven for about 1 hour.
-Stir in brown sugar and red wine vinegar and heat for another 20 mins.
-Add the tomatoes and sachet. Cook for another 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
When it is to your desire thickness, you are done!
Use this on pasta, throw in meatballs, or my favorite, serve warm over fried eggs in the morning. So frickin good!
Play with it and add some of the things I did in Italy and you will be a very happy man with very happy dates.