I will never forget my summer of grad school at Middlebury College in Vermont. I was in the Italian School which meant that we had to speak in Italian, dine in Italian, play soccer in Italian and have secret rendezvous with the half-black/half-white Puerto Rican in the adjacent French school in Italian.
One day I was making pasta for a group of friends, most of whom were undergraduates because they had time to waste. I sautéed some garlic in olive oil, then added canned tomatoes and some salt and fresh basil and went upstairs while waiting for the flavors to infuse.
Mistake number one of cooking: never go farther than earshot of your sauce. While I was away, Charlie, a cute undergrad, tasted my sauce, decided it didn’t have enough flavor (which it didn’t, it was left there to build flavor) and so chopped up some onions, threw them in the pot and sprinkled a hefty dose of ground dried garlic in there too.
First of all, while I attempt to keep calm after all these years, onions are often a great ingredient in a tomato sauce as they sweeten the sauce and can give it a more earthy flavor, but onions would need to be sautéed in the olive oil first. Throwing onions in a tomato sauce while it is still cooking will just boil those onions, creating an entirely different texture and flavor. Basically it will taste like soupy American spaghetti sauce, which is not exactly what I was aiming for.
Secondly, powdered garlic has no place, and I repeat, no place in the Italian kitchen or in any kitchen for that matter. Feel free to use it in your dog’s food to keep away the fleas or as an antibacterial add-in for your toilet scrub, but for the love of God, if you put it in your pasta sauce don’t ever, EVER, tell me about it. I have enough anxiety about useless nonsense things as it is.
For Elana's Simple Basic Tomato and Basil Sauce recipe, click here.
If you live in LA and would like to take cooking classes with Elana, please visit www.mealandaspiel.com