I just KNOW that people will scream when I say this, but: You could always add a little sugar.
Or better yet, add carrots, cut in brunoise or other small dice. The natural sweetness will work well. It's even fairly authentic! And think about using white onions instead of yellow -- more mellow, less acidic -- and sweating them before adding the other ingredients, to bring out the natural sugars.
As Susan said, a little pinch of sugar is a well accepted practice.
I think you also have to look at the quality and taste of the tomatoes you're using for sauce. Are they canned? Nothing wrong if they are, but check to make sure they are good quality. A lot of canned tomatoes use calcium chloride as a preservative and I find it gives a very sharp taste that a pinch of sugar will mellow out. Look for the San Marzano plum tomatoes from Italy or Muir Glen organic tomatoes, both are great! If you can't find those, try using straight tomato paste - fry in a little oil at the begining of making sauce, and add vegetable stock and wine to acheive the liquid consistency you want.
Because tomato paste is concentrated it tends to be sweeter - a lot of my Italian friends make their sauce this way when they can't find the good tomatoes!
The first time I had sweet (really sweet) tomato sauce was at a restaurant in Hot Springs Ark. on lake Hamilton...Rosa's....she was very Italian and made the most wonderful chicken caccatori....memorable....must have been in the late 60's early 70's.
Fennel -- mmmmmmmmmm, YES! And it's a great way to use up the stalks, after you've had the bulb some other way.:lips: When I have some to add, I put it in raw with the carrots/celery/onion etc. to caramelize a bit first. (I love a chunky, vegetable-y sauce!)
Fennel would change the taste of the sauce beyond simply sweetening it. It would be fine for me because I love both fennel and tomato sauce - but fennel would definitely impart a licorice taste to the sauce and you'd have to be ready for it.
Speaking of fennel, today is St. Joseph's day and I have Pasta Con Sarde sauce ready to go! It has fennel in it and it can definitely be tasted, over and above the sardines and other goodies included.
Do what Marcella Hazan does with her bolognese sauce. Once the veggies are cook, add some milk and let it evaporate. Then add some wine and let it evaporate. You can then add your tomatoes or tomato sauce. Let it simmer for a while partly uncovered and the aroma will drive you nut. And add a touch of nutmeg with the milk.
It's funny Chiffonade, you have the pasta con sarde and I made
maccu di San Giuseppe, which is bean soup with fennel seeds and fennel.
It grows wild in the hillsides around here. and the spring shoots are really coming up all over - I've got a nice bunch waiting to go into the soup right now!
Oh, Oh, Oh! Mr. Kotter! Me, Me! Any chance you'd share the recipe??
:bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:
P.S. Our sarde was delicious but my family doesn't care for it. My husband is not Italian and my daughter is 13 (which should explain VOLUMES). I'm afraid this is the last year I'll make it unless we move to a neighborhood where people appreciate the Italian ritualistic foods. I go crazy every year watching them push the food around the plate.
In the Pasta con le sarde, you're supposed to add fennel not only in the sauce, but also in the water you use to cook the pasta (as for the recipe...Chiffonade can surely share it with us!)
As for sugar...adding a pinch of sugar to the tomato sauce to cut off the acidity is just an Italian habit and we don't consider it an abomination! Obviously we add only "a pinch", never enough to give the sauce a sweet taste. Although Italian style tomato sauce usually contains chopped onion, carrot and celery, and although it's usually made with fresh and not canned tomatoes, adding some sugar can be useful in any case.
BTW...adding some carrot puree also makes better any red wine sauce, as it cuts the acidity of the wine and thickens the sauce giving it a nicer taste than flour or cornstarch. This advice comes from my favourite cook, Bernard Loiseau (you surely know him...the chef of the "Cote d'Or" in Saulieu, Borgogne).
Thanks Pongi, for validating the sugar - my Italian aunts and Nonna would always throw in a pinch if the tomatoes weren't the best...
Miss Chiffonade- here is the recipe for maccu - it's taken from
"Pomp and Sustenance - Twenty five Centuries of Sicilian Food" by Mary Tayor Simeti, one of my favorite books...
Maccu di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph's soup)
1/2 # dried shelled fava beans
1/4 # dried Borlotti or kidney beans
1/4 # dried chickpeas
1/2 # dried chestnuts or 3/4 # fresh, shelled
1/4 # dried split peas
1/4 # dried lentils
2 dried tomatoes, cut into small pieces ( I use my oven dried )
1 onion sliced
1 tsp. fennel seeds
3 ribs of celery
3 sprigs fresh fennel ( I use a little more cause I like it)
1 large bunch of fresh borage shoots (didn't have any - mine haven't come up yet)
1/2 # fresh spinach or Swiss chard
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 c. olive oil
Soak the fava beans, Borlotti or kidney beans, chickpeas and chestnuts overnite in abundant water (if using fresh chestnuts you don't have to soak them). Add the split peas and lentils for the last hour or two of soaking.
Drain and place in a large earthenware pot (I use my old Dutch oven)
with 9 to 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 3 hours until the beans are tender.
After the first hour and a half, add the tomatoes, onion, and fennel seeds.
Chop the celery and other greens into fairly small pieces and add them to the soup. Salt to taste. About 5 minutes before removing from the heat, correct the salt and add pepper and olive oil.
If you like , you can serve the soup with croutons fried in olive oil.
Don't feel you can't try the soup because you lack one or two ingredients,
maccu changes from year to year depending on what's in season and what's in the cupboard. I finally used my beautiful mix of lentils that I got from Kalustyan's in NYC when I was there in January. I'd been saving them for a special purpose and this was it!