Category: Basics

Basic Tomato Sauce (Sugo Simplice)

Basic Tomato Sauce (for 4 – 6 people)

I use a basic tomato sauce as the basis for many recipes.  Whether you want to make a lasagna, an eggplant parmigiana, or a fast pasta for a group of hungry kids, use this recipe.  It literally takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, especially if you are using canned Italian plum tomatoes.


  • 1 can of Italian plum tomatoes (chopped), or a box of Pomì chopped tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Calabrian red hot pepper or a Thai pepper, minced (optional)
  • A handful of chopped fresh Italian basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How to Make this Recipe

  1. Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat to medium.
  2. When the olive oil is warm, add the sliced garlic cloves.
  3. Allow the garlic to turn golden; then remove all of the garlic, using a fork.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and basil and bring the heat to high. Add salt and pepper. Stir the ingredients together and allow to cook about minutes.  DO NOT OVERCOOK!
  5. Turn fire off.
  6. If you are using this as a sauce for another dish, you can use it immediately. If you are using it as a pasta sauce, mix with spaghetti or other pasta, add freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, and enjoy!

Italiano: Sugo Semplice

Uso una salsa di pomodoro base come base per molte ricette. Che tu voglia fare una lasagna, una parmigiana di melanzane o una pasta veloce per un gruppo di ragazzini affamati, usa questa ricetta. Ci vogliono meno di 10 minuti, soprattutto se si utilizzano pomodori a tatterini in scatola.


  • 1 scatola di pomodori datterini italiani (tritati) o una scatola di pomodori Pomì a pezzetti
  • 2 spicchi d’aglio, schiacciati
  • 120 ml di olio extravergine di oliva
  • 1 peperoncino piccante calabrese italiano o, tritato (facoltativo) o altro Thai pepper, etc.
  • Una manciata di basilico italiano fresco tritato
  • Sale e pepe a piacere


  1. Aggiungere l’olio d’oliva in una padella fuoco medio alto.
  2. Quando l’olio d’oliva è caldo, aggiungere aglio schiacciato.
  3. Lasciare che l’aglio diventi dorato; quindi toglierlo.
  4. Aggiungere la polpa di pomodoro e il basilico e portare la fiamma al massimo. Aggiungi sale e pepe. Mescolate gli ingredienti e lasciate cuocere per 5 minuti. NON CUOCERE TROPPO!
  5. Spegnere il fuoco.
  6. Se lo usi come salsa per un altro piatto, puoi usarlo immediatamente. Se lo usi come condimento per la pasta, mescola con gli spaghetti o altra pasta, aggiungi il Parmigiano grattugiato fresco e buon appetito!

Giancarlo Gottardo’s Vinaigrette


Do you like a slightly-sweet vinaigrette with your salads? I do, and often I have used a bit of honey as one of the ingredients in my oil and vinegar salad dressings.  Now I have a new favorite – a grape-reduction vinaigrette that has become one of the staples in my pantry.

I never knew what to do with the grapes that remained after an event.  They are so beautiful when they are fresh and cool, displayed artfully on a platter…but if  they aren’t all eaten, they look soft and unappealing the next day. I used to throw them away, until Giancarlo Gottardo, our good friend, showed me how to use them to make a fantastic homemade vinaigrette.


  • 1 cup of sugarGiancarlo's Vinaigrette
  • 1 cup of white, apple cider vinegar, or white
    balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of white, red, or green grapes and their stems (you can use a mix of these varieties as well)

How to Prepare this Recipe

  1. Put the grapes, sugar, vinegar, water, and salt into a heavy saucepan with a good lid.
  2. Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes, then put a lid on the pot and turn down the heat. Cook for an hour on a simmer with the lid on.
  3. Allow the pot to cool, covered, then strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth into a bottle.
  4. Store at a cool temperature inside a cabinet.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

I like to use homemade broths for all of my soup and risotto recipes. My wife, Betti, makes the broth in our household, and she always keeps fresh or frozen broth in the kitchen. Here’s her recipe for a simple vegetable broth.


  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 leafs of kale (optional)
  • 2 cherry tomatoes
  • ½ bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • Salt
  • A teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 2 liters of water

How to make this recipe

  1. Coarsely chop all of the vegetables except the cherry tomatoes and the parsley.
  2. Fill a pot with 2 to 3 liters of water. Make sure you have a heavy lid for the pot.
  3. Add the chopped vegetables, salt and peppercorns, and the ½ bunch of Italian parsley to the pot.
  4. Bring to a boil.  Allow to boil vigorously for 5 to 10 minutes, then partially cover the pot with its lid and bring to a simmer.
  5. Allow the ingredients to simmer for about 2 – 3 hours, making sure that it stays close to a boil, but doesn’t actually boil anymore
  6. After cooking for 2 – 3 hours, add the cherry tomatoes and bring to a boil once again for a few minutes.

Turn off the heat and allow to cool.  Use a colander or a strainer to separate the vegetables and peppercorns from the broth.

Basic Chicken Broth (Basic, or light version)

My wife Betti makes all of the broths we use in our recipes.  We always have a store of frozen chicken, vegetable, and meat broths available because the flavor of these home-made broths is much richer and more intense than that of packaged broths.  If you have to buy a broth, look for an organic broth in your local market.  But I promise you, once you’ve made your own broth, you won’t go back to the store-bought variety.


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 carrots, chopped into large pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 white onion, quartered
  • 2 leeks, chopped into rounds (wash the leeks carefully to remove the grit)
  • ½ bunch fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • A handful of salt
  • A bunch of fresh thyme – sometimes you can find a combined bunch of thyme and marjoram mixed together at the market, and you can use this bunch

How to Make this Recipe

  1. In a large stockpot (about 4 quarts of water), add cold water and all of the ingredients except the chicken.
  2. Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Allow the vegetables to cook for about 40-45 minutes.
  3. Raise the heat to a boil and add the chicken (don’t add the giblets—you can reserve them for something else).
  4. Bring the heat to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow it to boil for about 5 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer, so that you see rolling bubbles every minute or two, but the water is not rapidly boiling.
  6. Partially cover, and allow to cook for about 1 hour. You can skim off any foam periodically, so that the resulting broth will be very clear.
  7. Remove the chicken from the pot, placing it into a large bowl or baking dish so that it can cool. Keep the broth on a low simmer until the chicken is cooled enough to pick the meat from the bones. Once it’s cooled, you can shred the meat from the bone and use it for another recipe—my favorite use for the shredded chicken is a variation of the Mediterranean Chicken Salad recipe from the classic cookbook The Silver Palate:  http://www.silverpalate.com/recipe/store-favorites/mediterreanian-chicken-salad
  8. Put the bones back into the broth and cook for another hour, partially covered, and always at a low boil.
  9. Strain the chicken broth once it’s cooled enough for use or storage.

Fish Broth

How to Make Fish Stock

Use only fish from the sea, not from rivers and lakes.  You can use anything you like. For example, you can use 1 pound of sardines and/or fish heads (say salmon, grouper, Mahi Mahi, shirimp, or the “skin” of the shrimp. Always use some, say 10 or so mussels or clams, etc. and their spines. Do not use small fish. Then, you do not have to deal with their small bones that will choke some guests not used to eating fish).

In a pot (really big),  add the fish; it should occupy about 1/3 to ¼ of the pot.  Add 1-2 glasses white wine –depending on how big your pot is, 1 red onion cut in 4, 4 cloves of garlic crushed, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 sprig of rosemary, 1 celery cut in pieces, water up to 2 inches to the top, black peppercorns, and salt. Let it boil lightly for 2-3 hours or three, until the water is about half then what you started with. Drain the broth, set aside until it reaches room temperature, and then freeze. When you need it, you will defrost it.

mixed heirloom tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes – A Cooking Basic

Although many recipes are very good when you use store-bought canned tomatoes (like Pomì), they reach the next level of excellence when you can use tomatoes you have canned yourself.  My wife and I discovered this when we lived in the Chicago area, and found many varieties of beautiful heirloom tomatoes at a local farmer’s market. We found that the yellow, green, and orange heirlooms provided a lovely balance for fish recipes requiring tomato, while the red heirlooms were milder and more tasty than the store-bought tomatoes. Now, we always keep a supply of canned tomatoes on hand.


  • Ball mason jars and new lids (you can buy these jars at Walmart and in many supermarkets) – washed and drained
  • Fresh basil
  • Lots and lots of mature, clean tomatoes – we typically buy 50 pounds of them from the market and spend the weekend cleaning and canning.

How to make this recipe


  • Put a very large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil
  • Carefully drop the clean tomatoes (in batches) into the water
      1. Leave them there for a minute or two until the skin begins to split
  • Use a slotted spoon to lift the tomatoes from the water and put them on a large flat serving dish to cool
  • Do steps 2 and 3 multiple times until all the tomatoes are ready
  • Peel the tomatoes and put them into the canning jars, filling to near the top (you could also look at the instructions on the Ball Canning website
  • Add one leaf of clean, fresh basil to the jar
  • Use a wooden tool to make sure that there are no air bubbles in the jar
  • Screw on the top of the jar, finger-tight
  • Place the jars into a large pot of cold water or a pressure cooker, with at least 3 inches of water covering the jars.  
    1. You can follow the instructions on the Ball Ball Canning website for cooking.
    2. I do not follow instructions and do as I saw my grandmother did: At sea level, since the water boils, I wait 20 minutes, then I turn off the fire and leave the pot on the stove until it cools down (about 16 hours). Then you can store the jars for several years. However, the time it takes to cook the tomatoes is influenced by the altitude. So, if you live on top of a mountain, you may want to wait 30 minutes or so before turning the fire off.


Come fare la conserva: Tanti pomodori maturi, bollire 1-2 min appena la pelle si spacca metterli in uno scolapasta. Farli raffreddare. Sbuccciarli e metterli in barattoli di vetro per fare conserva -si vendono ovunque, precedentemente lavati in lavastoviglie -che disinfetta molto meglio che lavando a mano. Riempire fino all’olrlo e mettere una foglia di basilico fresco -togliere bolle d’aria con una forchetta. Chiudere il barattolo con gli appositi coperchi. Mettere in un grande pentolone e coprire d’acqua fredda. I barattoli devono essere interamente sommersi. Accendere il fuoco al massimo, da quando bolle, aspettare 20 min. poi spegnere il fuoco e lasciare raffreddare fino al mattino successivo. Pomodori pronti: si conservano vari anni.

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