Last week, one of my favorite Italian places, I Tre Merli, closed down. It’s as close as you’ll get to real Italian food that isn’t watered down to American taste, however, it is on the pricier side. I’ve measured all spaghetti alla vongole to this place. The best place for this dish was definitely Genoa, Italy. I find the north of Italy has better food as it also has less tourism and more authenticity and a rich milieu of other European countries like France, Germany, and Austria.
One of the things I loved about this place was the spice. Their food was nicely spiced. Another one of my favorite dishes at I Tre Merli was the spicy tomato sauce with seafood. It has a kick that you would love if you enjoy spicy food but a wonderful blend of sauce and aroma.
On the heels of that last dish, I decided I would try to learn to make my own version.
First, I had to learn to make my own tomato sauce. I’ve researched up and down the internet and read many variety and felt that they used too many ingredients. I wanted to keep it short and sweet (mostly because I didn’t have all the ingredients). So I pared things down and made my own version of spicy tomato sauce. This is the simplest recipe, albeit, might be a bit too bland for some people’s taste bud that ranges to the super rich and savory.
- 6 tomatoes, peeled and dice. I normally go for the Roma tomatoes for larger sweet tasting tomatoes.
- 1 tsp of olive oil
- half an onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tsp of tomato paste (I’ve been watching a lot of America’s Taste Kitchen and they recommended Amore Tomato Paste over Cento’s & Contadina’s. What I like about it is that I can save it just by closing a tube and not throwing out the whole can)
- 1 tsp of fresh basil, chopped
- 2 pieces of chili pepper, chopped
- salt and pepper for taste
I had bought this batch of tomato instead of getting canned because I wanted the chunks without all the preservatives. I found a technique that I thought was just amazing.
In a large pot, I boiled the tomatoes for about 3-5 minutes and quickly sieved them out into a pot of ice water. You’ll see that the slight boil caused the skin to peel. You can easily pull off the rest of the skin and it’ll leave you with beautiful skinless tomatoes. This saves time and energy and you won’t lose any of the tomato juice you would get trying to peel by hand. Best of all, the tomato stays pretty hard if you don’t leave them too long to cook in the hot water.
Like all Italian cooking, heat up a pot on medium fire, add some olive oil and when it’s ready, add your onion.
Brown that for about 5-10 minutes but not caramelize and then add the garlic for another 2-3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes with all its seeds and juice. Add some tomato paste for some consistency. Add basil and chili pepper and then salt and pepper as you like. I have been growing my own basil and found that baby basils are absolutely delicious and fresh and not as old and stale tasting as the ones in the supermarket.
Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes. You can store this sauce and save it for other recipes.
In my case, I decided to make food for the week with some ground beef. I added a batch of fresh spinach, a teaspoon of sugar, and some more salt.
Finally, I served it over shell pasta and added some crumbled bacon bits for an additional salty kick. Even my very Italian boyfriend gave this a thumbs up and he’s a tough critic when it comes to Italian food.