Pizza Sauce

Under fire, not on fire
Under fire, not ON fire

Writing a Cookbook Wall post begins with either a random thought or a delicious flavor. Usually, the process is driven by a recipe which I decide is too good to keep to myself and must be recorded. It’s blog-worthy, and my daughters might want to make it someday.

Sometimes I have a thought that isn’t overtly food-related, but my subconscious suspects it might be if I let it percolate a while. I record those snippets, too, and they have a half-life in a drafts file, waiting to be fleshed out into stories. Inspiration might come slowly, if at all, if the subject matter is a little abstract.

Some examples:

From a Trip Advisor review of a Memphis, Tennessee, restaurant: “Great for Foodies and normal people, too.”

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Or this about purses, which I thought could morph into a ravioli reference:

I’m a member of a club so secret that I didn’t know I’d joined, until the comments began. The speaker is always a woman, and she tells me, usually in a hushed voice, some variation of,

“Oh, my god, I love your purse. That color is gorgeous.”

The compliments are directed toward a blue leather purse I bought on sale at Precipitating this development was First born’s kind suggestion that I upgrade my dowdy everyday bag. I don’t follow fashion trends, which would be obvious if you could see my footwear, so perusing Ms. Spade’s designs was a revelation. My selection arrived days after placing my order, smartly packaged in black and white-striped tissue, and just like that, I was initiated into the secret club of purse snobs.

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Then there was this:

First born brought home fast-food pancakes for breakfast after church. I was washing dishes by hand, dishwasher broken again. We chatted amiably while she ate. As I scrubbed plates and glasses, I told her that the elastic waist in my pajama pants had busted, and I hadn’t fixed it yet, and the cotton batiste was so lightweight that I didn’t always know when my pants fell down. If she happened to see me in that condition, I said, don’t think anything of it. Just let me know, and I’ll pull the pants up again. First born stared into the distance and declared her intention to go back to bed and pull the covers over her head.

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I came up with a new idea for a music playlist:

Music with perfect rhythm and speed to shake a vinaigrette by: Marvin Gaye’s “It Takes Two,” and Ray Charles’s “Unchain My Heart.” Do the vinaigrette shimmy.

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And this:

I had a bad scone with a good friend at a coffee shop recently. I’ve been wary of store-bought scones ever since biting into a terrible one in 2009 at the Crooked House of Windsor, a tearoom within bugling distance of Windsor Castle in Great Britain. The Crooked House stands askew because unseasoned oak was used in its construction in 1687. I think the scone I ate came out of its ovens shortly after.

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And finally, this.

Every oven fire I’ve ever had happened when I was making pizza.

I can work with this one, because just yesterday someone I know said he needed a recipe for pizza sauce. I have a good one. In fact, it’s blog-worthy.

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Pizza Sauce

Every oven fire I’ve ever had happened when I was making pizza.

Each time, the cause has been cornmeal falling off the pizza stone and igniting in the 450°F. heat. (Except once when a cognac-glazed beef tenderloin caught fire on Christmas day many years ago. Different oven, different house. That stainless steel pan is still warped.) My remedy always is to toss a handful of baking soda on the fire and open a couple of windows, with apologies to dinner guests. I’ve had a couple of noncooks watch the billowing smoke with alarm, but I’ve yet to have to evacuate a dinner party. Knock on wood.

Pizza Sauce (adapted from a recipe in The Doubleday Cookbook, by Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna, © 1975 by Doubleday & Company, Inc.)

In a small saucepan, combine

  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (A little sweetness tempers the sharpness of canned tomato paste and sauce. Substitute honey or agave nectar to taste, if you prefer.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper

Whisk to combine thoroughly, then simmer over low heat until warm and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Stir periodically, and take care that the sauce doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan.

Smear a thin layer of this pizza sauce over your own homemade pizza dough round, or on hoagie bread halves, or even sliced English muffins, all first lightly brushed with olive oil. Follow with shredded mozzarella cheese, your choice of toppings, and then shredded Parmesan cheese to hold everything together. A sprinkle of pizza seasoning from Penzeys Spices is my favorite final touch. Bake raw dough at a higher temperature (450°F.) than prebaked breads (375°F.), or as packaging instructs, until the cheese melts and is golden brown in spots. This sauce is good on gluten-free pizza rounds, too, although the G-F rounds themselves are not tasty. Leftovers are useful frozen in small portions suitable for topping individual pizzas.


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