(Valentine dinner tip inside!)
Sorry dearies...those weren't gulab jamuns. For those who thought they were tomatoes, you were right. Tomato soup and sauce...close, but no one thought Italian! Marinara sauce it is. Not Prego or Ragu, but homemade wholesome goodness. It is so simple to make that it is almost criminal to buy those 'imported' bottles from Indian supermarkets or from one of the dollar stores that have mushroomed all over the city.
Tomatoes are abundant these days and basil grows in a pot on my window sill. For some more basil, the neighbouring market sells them cheap at 5 Rs for a small bunch. My kitchen never goes without garlic. So what else is there to a good jar of marinara sauce? Nothing actually.
I used to love the show Everyday Italian. Giada's simple style and usage of a variety of vegetables kept me hooked to her show. I modified her recipe to suit the availability of ingredients here. 1 kg of tomatoes yielded two jars of sauce. Kept refrigerated, it is now a breeze to dish out my hubby's favourite dinner of spaghetti in tomato sauce.
2 tbsp olive oil
8-10 cloves of garlic finely milled
1 kg ripe tomatoes ~ 2 Lbs
2 bunches of fresh basil ~1/3 cup finely chopped
1 tsp dried basil (optional)
1 tbsp chilli flakes or cayenne pepper powder
1 tbsp sea salt
2 sterilised glass bottles (I kept the open bottles in a pressure cooker with some water. Switch off the gas after one whistle. When cool, remove and dry)
In a large pot, bring 2-3 L of water to boil. Place the washed tomatoes with cross slits in the water. Bring to a boil. After 5 minutes, switch off the gas. Remove tomatoes from water and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, peel of the tomatoes and quarter them.
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the chopped garlic for a few seconds. Do not brown. Put the chilli flakes / powder in the oil and immediately put in the quartered tomatoes. Season with salt and dried basil. Stir around the contents of the pan until the moisture has evaporated. This will take around 10-15 minutes.
Spoon the contents into the clean jars and seal. Refrigerate until use. This should keep atleast for a month in the fridge. You could even freeze it as cubes in the ice tray and store the cubes in a ziploc bag for easy use and longer life of the sauce.
Valentine's dinner tip
You can prepare this sauce a day or two in advance for your Valentine's dinner and a simple penne pasta rolled in pre-prepared marinara sauce with a few shavings of a good Parmesan cheese will make an easy yet wonderful main course. For starters, sides and desserts, stay tuned...for the Valentine mood is on, on Saffron Trail!
For the girls who have access to diced, chopped, pureed, crushed or whole canned tomatoes, go ahead and use them. Save your time for better things!
Like dessert, I mean...duh!!