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Salsa Fresca - Simple Ingredients but with Great Care in Preparation

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

One of the most defining ingredients in Italian cooking is perhaps the most misunderstood. An Italian tomato sauce also known as a sugo, salsa or passata di pomodoro is a key ingredient for many an Italian dish. However, many of the bottles of salsa di pomodoro that people might find in their local supermarkets, around the world, do not uphold the ancient traditions of salsa making. A true Italian tomato sauce has very few ingredients and most would believe that nothing that tastes that good should be so simple. Perhaps the most famous recipe for salsa di pomodoro is from Marcella Hazan, the godmother of Italian cooking. In 1973 she published a recipe for tomato sauce in her first cookbook The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that was made with only 4 ingredients. This astonished most American cooks who at that time failed to understand that the secret of the sauce lies in the pure simplicity and its essential ingredient - the tomato, the heart of an Italian summer.

Organically grown fresh pomodorini (small tomatoes) are picked at the peak of summertime ripeness, sorted, washed and boiled, then pressed into a rich sauce. Italians call this salsa fresca. The tomatoes are called pomodori ciliegin, Italian cherry tomatoes because resemble cherries in their size and sweetness. Those cultivated in Italy are the best, especially in Sicily were the climate is dry and sunny and ideal for the production of the sweet, scented Pachino (Siracusa) cherry tomato.

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce

In a medium saucepan, combine the tomatoes and juices, butter, onion and a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a steady simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.

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