The Gleeful Gourmand: The Great Sauce-Off!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Great Sauce-Off!

My dear friend Kiki over at I Still Hate Pickles threw this challenge to me last week: We both make each other's tried-and-true sauces, the ones we've been talking about forever, and see which one is better. Then we open it up to our readers to learn your secrets for successful tomato sauce, and maybe even have a throw-down where you make both our sauces and tell us which one is the winner.

So here it is, The Great Sauce-Off! I wish we had been able to do this together, maybe even in a more dramatic, Mad Max and the Thunderdome type of setting. But since she lives in Houston and I live in Richmond, we settled for our own boring kitchens instead.

Here are two differences right off the bat between our sauces: Hers was created completely in her own beautiful brain, and mine was ripped straight from the pages of Bon Appétit. I have to give Kiki major points for this. She futzed (yes, that's a word) with it over years and finally accepted it for what it was: A great sauce.

Anything with wine has to be good!
There are other major differences too, like consistency, flavor, richness, and acidity. Kiki's base starts with sweating onions and then tossing in garlic and finally deglazing with red wine. Anything that starts with red wine could never be bad. I chose one of my favorites, Cline Cashmere. The wine adds a depth of richness and aroma that is so very good. Long after all the other spices were added and it had simmered for 45 minutes, I still got hints of the wine working its way in through every bite.

She also adds in yummy herbs where mine does not; basil and italian seasoning. And then came the weird part. Sugar (okay, that's not so weird), and baking soda. She says the baking soda is to take the edge of the acidity, but I've never heard of that. I went along with it, and thought it was weird, but fine. I'm dying to know what it tastes like without it. The only thing in the world I would change is the sugar content. Kiki uses 1 Tbsp., and I think you could get away with much less, like maybe 1 tsp. Crushed tomatoes can be especially sweet, and the sugar can kick that into overdrive. It isn't cloying or anything like that, but it does end up being a little sweet for my taste.  I also tossed the spaghetti into a large skillet with about half of the sauce and simmered them together making sure all the strands were coated.

Kiki's sauce, simmering away.
Otherwise, her sauce is delicious. It's hearty and substantial, and I love that you can use it for more dishes than just spaghetti, which I really believe is pretty much the only thing my sauce can tackle. Together with the spices and the wine, every single mouthful was delightful. And here's the major difference: I could see enjoying this on a crisp Fall evening, or even a bitterly cold one, whereas mine feels more like a Spring/Summer type of sauce because of its lightness.
The finished product!

So readers, I'm dying for someone to take on this challenge! Kiki's recipe is listed below, and she will post my recipe on her site. Click the link below the recipe to enter the challenge and post to your blog! Or, feel free to leave your own favorite recipe in the comment section.

Kiki's Sauce

2 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes 
1/4 c red wine 
1 sweet yellow onion (vidalias are great)
A ton of garlic (about half a head)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. italian seasoning
1 Tbsp. basil
1 tsp crushed red pepper 
1/2 tsp baking soda
 salt & pepper to taste

I start by chopping the onions.  I don't mince them, but chop them smaller so they aren't ridiculously chunky.  If I am using fresh garlic, I will also chop that.  Saute the onions in the olive oil til soft and almost clear, then add the garlic and let that cook in for a few minutes.  Pour in the wine and stir to get anything stuck on the pot unstuck.  Add the two cans of crushed tomatoes and stir.  Add the sugar and seasonings and bring to a simmer.  Add the baking soda.  It has a chemical reaction and will get all crazy bubbly.  Let it do that, then stir. (It helps cut the acidity, which the sugar also does.)  I typically lower the temp once it simmers and let it cook on a lower-medium heat for a while. If I'm in a hurry, less time, but I like something like 45 minutes.  Serve over whatever pasta you like or use anywhere you'd use a red sauce (covering manicotti, etc).  


Kirsten Oliphant said...

I think you are right about the sugar--I generally add more like a dash with my fingers that I thought might end up as a tablespoon, but I bet in reality it's much less. The problem with not measuring!

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