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X Italian Sauces
Basic "Red" Pasta Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes (Southern Italian style)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Any tiime
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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3 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes (about 10 large tomatoes)
1 or 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dry basil (optional)
1 teaspoon dry oregano (optional)
1 teaspoon hot red chillies (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

For garnish:

2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped


1. Peel and chop the garlic.

2. Peel and chop onion

3. Skin and remove seeds from tomatoes.

4. Dice the tomatoes (The pieces should be as small as possible).

5. Heat up the olive oil in a cooking pan.

6. Saute the onion and garlic.

7. Add the tomatoes. Mix in tomato paste (if using).

8. Add salt, pepper, sugar, fresh basil and bay leaf. Add dried oregano and basil (if using).

9. Over medium heat, cook the tomato sauce for about 20 minutes.

10. Remove bay leaf and basil.

11. Cook pasta.

12. Place the pasta in a large bowl. Toss with about half the sauce (reserve the rest).

13. Place the pasta in individual plates and top with more sauce.

14. Garnish individual plates with finely chopped fresh basil OR fresh parsley.


Prior to World War II cooks generally used what was in season. So a sauce made with fresh tomatoes would only be prepared in the summer to the late fall. Apparently, tomatoes could be had fresh from August to December. Many farmers kept some of their tomato plants (after the harvest) in the fields so they could go out and pick fresh ones when they liked. They also uprooted some of their tomato plants and placed them on hooks (with their plants still on), kept them in the sunshine, and there they stayed fresh till up to December. In Molise most households preserved vegetables for the winter by canning them or drying them. However, not all households could afford the equipment needed to can tomatoes. At that time the glass containers needed to can the tomatoes were rather expensive. So poorer households, in particular, subsistent farmers, would generally turn the bulk of their tomato crop into tomato paste which was then stored in clay pots (They were more economical than glass containers). As the amount of home-made tomato paste was limited, most cooks would toss their pasta in Southern-style "white sauce" in the wintertime. Because cooks turned to "white sauce" to save on what tomato paste or canned tomatoes they had on hand, "white sauce" was less valued and had less status. Nowadays fresh tomatoes are available year round in most parts of the world. So cooks have choices -- red sauce or white sauce -- white sauce Southern Italian style or white sauce Northern Italian style? Everyone knows (Don't they?) the more choices one has the unhappier one is.... Photo: by the contributor.

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