Spiced Tomato Sauce That Works Hard

Here’s a versatile, thick sauce that goes well with just about anything. We’ve enjoyed it with lentils, a drizzle of plain yogurt mixed with lemon juice and fresh herbs, Andouille sausages crisped in a skillet or on the grill, and with various grains and starches – pasta, brown rice, quinoa, polenta.  The red pepper flakes and paprika give a nice, warming heat, and the cinnamon adds a hint of exotic spice without overpowering the sauce.  It can serve as a end-of-summer appetizer on thick slices of toasted bread with shavings of pecorino, or establish itself in your fall and winter repertoire as a healthy, warm and filling side or main. And as with all great tomato sauces, the flavors continue to develop in the refrigerator if you have leftovers.

Spiced Tomato Sauce

Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-sized onion
4 cloves of garlic
Red pepper flakes
Spicy paprika
Madras curry powder (if you have it)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 large can diced tomatoes (San Marzano if you have them)
1 bay leaf

As you heat a large skillet, mince the onion and garlic.  When the skillet is hot, add a drizzle of olive oil, then the onion. Saute for a few seconds, then add the garlic. Sprinkle on red pepper flakes and spicy paprika to taste, add a hefty pinch of salt and few cracks of the pepper grinder. When the onion is translucent, move to one side and add the tomato paste; continue to cook until the paste turns a darker shade of red, then stir it with the onion/garlic mixture. Add the can of tomatoes and the bay leaf, turning down the heat to a simmer.

Once the liquid has reduced by a few tablespoons (about 10 minutes), sprinkle on the cinnamon (I used a quarter teaspoon and also a pinch or two of Madras curry powder) and stir. Continue to cook until liquid is almost gone (about 10 more minutes), adjust spices to taste, then remove from heat and take out bay leaf.

Serves 6.

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