Sardinian Tomato Sauce
Centenarians make foods from recipes passed down through generations, mixed with their own instinct and, of course, whatever is ripe in the garden. Virtually every Sardinian family has its “secret” tomato sauce. The best ingredient, I am told, is plum tomatoes, which must be skinned and seeded, a time-consuming chore. But this is an authentic Sardinian tomato sauce even with a slight twist: I use canned Italian plum tomatoes that are already skinned and seeded, a real time-saver. It cuts hands-on time to about 10 minutes. Feel free to double or even triple the recipe, because it freezes well in sealed containers for up to 4 months.
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 (28-ounce) cans diced seeded plum tomatoes, such as San Marzano tomatoes (about 7 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and broken in half 1 medium celery stalk, broken in half
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
Warm the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot set over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes.
Do not brown.
Add the garlic and fennel seeds; cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds.
Add the tomatoes, carrot, celery, basil, bay leaves, and salt.
Stir well and bring to a full simmer.
Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and simmer slowly for 1 hour.
Remove from the heat and cool for 20 minutes.
Discard the carrot, celery, and bay leaves.
Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce in the pot until smooth and velvety.
You can also puree the sauce in a large food processor fitted with the chopping blade, although you’ll probably have to work in two batches to avoid overflow.
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