The best pasta sauce I’ve ever tasted was served with ricotta ravioli in a small restaurant somewhere in Florence. I can’t tell you the name of the restaurant or even its approximate location, because Peter and I wandered around the city for hours. Every once and a while we would catch a glimpse of the Duomo through a narrow street or over some especially short buildings, a sign that we weren’t entirely lost. I remember choosing the restaurant because the entrance was surrounded by potted herbs and flowers, and because we were hot and famished. We ordered a bowl of minestrone and the ricotta ravioli with what was translated on the menu as carriage driver sauce. I’d never tasted anything like it, and I spent the rest of our time in Italy ordering pasta dishes with tomato sauces that might rival it, all to no avail. After we returned from Italy I was determined to recreate the carriage driver tomato sauce on my own, but all I could remember of the flavor was that it included cherry tomatoes. The following is my basic recipe for tomato sauce from a can of crushed tomatoes. In the summertime, try adding cherry tomatoes that have been broiled until they froth and break apart. It makes the sauce truly sublime.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, if you like it spicy)
Salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a medium pot, add the onion, and cook until the onion is soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt. Bring the sauce to a slow boil and then turn the heat down so the sauce simmers. I usually get the rest of the crushed tomatoes out of the jar by running some water in it, so I cook the sauce with the lid ajar to let some of the water evaporate, but if you don’t add any extra water you can simmer the sauce with the lid on (unless you like your sauce extra thick, in which case cook it uncovered, but keep an eye on it). The sauce can be cooked for a short or long time, as long as you keep an eye on how thick it gets. I usually cook it for 10-30 minutes, depending on how long the rest of dinner takes. Simple as that.