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~ Preschutti Pizza, Part I: Our Favorite Sauce ~

PICT0492Welcome to Kitchen Encounter's first mini-series:  a three-part post, which will be posted over three days, about my family's love for perfect pizza!  Today we are making pizza sauce, tomorrow we'll be making pizza crust and Wednesday we'll be concentrating on pizza toppings!  

Anyone who loves to eat pizza will tell you the secret to a great pizza is not just a great crust.  A great pizza crust must be topped with a great pizza sauce, and, in our house, one without the other is just not acceptable.  As the old folks say, "don't put your cart before your horse", and in pizzaland, the sauce is the horse, meaning:  always prepare your sauce before your crust.  My husband and I take pizza making very seriously and we make four distinctly different kinds of pizza, using four different crust recipes paired with crust-appropriate sauces:  1) Chicago-Style Deep-Dish (I previously posted this recipe back in October and it can be found in Categories 2, 17 & 19); 2) Pizza Margherita; 3) my son Jesse's Grilled Pizza, and our family favorite; 4) my rectangular-shaped, Sicilian-style, four-cheese pizza, which is what this three-part post is about.  No matter which one of the four I am making, I can tell you this:  everyone just loves being invited to our house on pizza night! 

I developed this particular thick, highly-flavored, sweet and spicy pizza sauce about 20 years ago to top my unique Sicilian-style crust.  I refer to it as unique because, while it is quite popular, you won't find many home cooks who know enough about it to make it.  It is a thick crust that is crispy on the outside and chewy in the center.  All pizza crusts are not created equal and this one holds up well to a thick, cooked sauce (rather than a thin, uncooked sauce which pairs better on a thin crust pizza), and you'll be reading all about it tomorrow in part two of this post.  In the late summer and fall, I make my pizza sauce using crushed garden tomatoes and fresh basil, but if I need it when tomatoes are out of season and basil is not available, I do not hesitate one bit to used crushed canned tomatoes and dried basil.  I also always make a pretty big batch of it and freeze it in 2 cup-size containers so I usually have some on hand!

I made the decision to post this pizza recipe in three parts, because in reality it is indeed three recipes and I want you to gain an appreciation for each one of them.  You can surely make one or two parts without the other(s), to use as you chose, but I highly recommend you make all three all at the same time and make a couple of my Sicilian pizza pies before you do!  To read the other two parts to this post, go to:

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part II:  Our Favorite Crust ~, found in Categories 5 & 12, along with;

~ Preschutti Pizza, Part III:  Our Favorite 4 Toppings ~, also found in Categories 2, 12 & 19. 

6a0120a8551282970b014e86d95907970d1/2  cup extra-virgin olive oil

1  pound diced yellow or sweet onion

4  ounces diced garlic cloves

1  tablespoon dried basil leaves

1  tablespoon sugar

1  tablespoon sea salt

1  tablespoon white pepper

1  6-ounce can tomato paste

4  28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

1  cup port wine (a sweet fortified red wine)

2-2 1/2  ounces fresh basil chiffonade (thinly sliced fresh basil leaves)

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

PICT0439 ~ Step 1.  Place the olive oil in the bottom of a very large 14" chef's pan w/straight deep sides or an 8-quart stockpot.

Prep the onion and garlic as directed, placing them in the pan as you work.  

Add the dried basil, red pepper flakes, sugar, salt and white pepper.



~ Step 2.  Stir the vegetable mixture until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Adjust heat to saute until the onion is soft and translucent, but not browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the tomato paste.

Note:  While the vegetable mixture sautes, chiffonade the fresh basil and set aside.



~ Step 3.  Combine the tomato paste with the sauteed vegetable mixture.  Continue to cook about 1 more minute, or just until the mixture is steaming and beginning to bubble.






~ Step 4.  Add and stir in all of the crushed tomatoes, the wine, the fresh basil chiffonade and optional red pepper flakes.  Adjust the heat to a very gentle, steady simmer.






~ Step 5.  Continue to cook, uncovered, until the sauce is reduced by about 1/3 and has a thick consistency.  This will take 1-1 1/2 hours depending upon the original consistency of your crushed tomatoes, meaning:  some brands are thinner (or more watery) than others, and they will take longer to cook.  Stir occasionally at the beginning of the simmering process and more frequently towards the end, to avoid scorching.

Note:  If at any time during the cooking process, the simmering pizza sauce starts to spew and spatter sauce on your stovetop, just partially cover the pan and continue with the process as directed.

PICT0479 ~ Step 6.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover and set aside to cool.  I like to let it cool completely, which takes about 4 hours.

Ladle the sauce into food storage containers, leaving about 1/2" of head space at the top of each container, as the sauce expands as it freezes.  I ladle about 1 1/2 cups of sauce into 2-cup size containers, and each one is enough to top one of my Sicilian-style pizzas!

PICT0498 Preschutti Pizza, Part  I:  Our Favorite Sauce:  Recipe yields about 3 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid, or, 8-quart stockpot w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon; 8, 2-cup size food storage containers, preferably glass; soup ladle

Cook's Note:  This sauce is really easy to make and once you taste it, I'm pretty certain you won't want to buy pizza sauce again.  In my family, we think it a little too thick to use as a pasta sauce, but, if you eliminate the tomato paste from the recipe, it transforms into a great tomato-basil sauce for any type of pasta!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


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