La famosa salsa della Mamma
(Teresa's Famous Sauce)
When I first met Marco in 2003, he was a photographer covering the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva. I was the press officer for Switzerland, the host country, at their first event as a full member of the UN. After the summit Marco and I stayed in touch, and we would meet for drinks or lunch in Geneva. When finally I invited him to my home in Russin, I wanted to impress him so I bought pasta and tomato sauce at Globus, the top quality gourmet food store in Geneva. I knew Marco was a professional chef as well as an award-winning photographer.
Marco came to Russin and announced he would make dinner. When I produced the items I had purchased, his response was not at all what I expected. “My brother's pasta!” he exclaimed, “and my mother's tomato sauce!” It turns out that Casa Farinato, the company of Giuseppe Farinato, Marco's elder brother, supplies Italian food to all the Globus gourmet food stores in Switzerland.
Marco's mother Teresa's tomato sauce is legendary. As she explained to me, it took her many years to refine the recipe and now it is exactly as she likes it. This is my fifth year living in Italy with Marco, and the first to be granted the privilege of making tomato sauce with Teresa, Marco's 88 year-old mother, in her kitchen.
The tomatoes must be top quality. This year, we used tomatoes from Sicily (she is from Sicily). She doesn't favor San Marzano tomatoes , most widely used for sauce, because she considers them too watery. So yesterday in her kitchen we sliced 44 kgs of Sicilian tomatoes, and we will do the same today. As she says, it is a shame to spend a fortune on tomato sauce in the winter, when with a relatively small effort you can make the provisions yourself at the end of the summer. She puts aside the hard tomatoes to keep for salad. They can last until December if they are good tomatoes. She said I could put them in the fridge if I want to, but they must be taken out many hours before eating. (Americans have a tendency to put everything in the fridge.)
Teresa's recipe, which she first made in Pompeii over 40 years ago:
Tomatoes from Sicily (44 kgs is the amount we used)
15 grams of salt per liter of tomato puree
The purest olive oil from Naples—1.5 cups for 4 liters of puree
Fresh basil leaves, dried (not wet)--1 large and 1 small placed in each jar, waiting for the sauce
44 kg of tomatoes yield 17 liters of tomato sauce.
The jars must be washed thoroughly and dried. Otherwise, as we found out at home, the tomato sauce will go bad!
Note: the entire kitchen is commandeered for the production line! To prepare the tomatoes, you must cut off the top and any remaining white pulp inside because it is bitter. Also cut out any bruises or blemishes. Slice the tomatoes into small pieces. Then boil them for 10 minutes, stirring often. When they are cooked, separate the seeds and the tomato peels from the pulp. In Italy, there is an indispensible hand-powered machine made for just this purpose. Once you have obtained a nice liquid puree free of seeds and peels, it goes back on the stove to be boiled again. When it boils, add the salt and olive oil and cook for 45 minutes. `Depending on the acidity of the tomatoes, and personal preferences, you may wish to add some sugar. Then without losing any time, pour the sauce into the jars and close immediately. After putting the sauce in jars, it must sit under a blanket for 12 hours.
written by Barbara Erskine (facebook.com/barbara.erskine)