Sometimes when I'm lying on the couch procrastinating doing work or longing to be on a beach in Bali or coveting the boots I saw in the window at my favorite shoe store, I'll announce to the yachtsman that I wish we were rich.
"But we are rich!" the yachtsman will reply, alarmed. "We're rich in so many ways! We're rich in love!"
This is why I married him, of course: He's made me rich in love.
What I did not marry him for are his eating habits. We may be rich in love, but my husband has an impoverished palate. And not only is the yachtsman a picky eater, our tastes are completely different: While I love beans, legumes, whole grains, whole wheat, and green, leafy vegetables, the yachtsman prefers burgers, cheese pizza, white bread, and fried chicken.
So usually we just don't eat together. Or we eat at the same table at the same time, but we consume different foods—I cook a pot of gruel and the yachtsman "cooks" a meal of prepared foods from the grocery store, or I nibble on some leftover gruel while the yachtsman noshes on takeout. Even the simplest of weeknight meals, spaghetti and red sauce, requires either some compromise or four pots crowded on top of the stove: one for the yachtsman's white spaghetti, one for his sauce from a jar, one for my whole wheat spaghetti, and one for my homemade sauce.
I recognize that we have different tastes, I've accepted that the man will never eat gruel, I don't even bother offering him a bowl of homemade soup. But for god's sake, we can't eat the same red sauce on top of our two different spaghettis?
Awhile ago I took a stand, goddammit, and its name was homemade spaghetti sauce.
Let me be clear: My homemade spaghetti sauce is nothing special. It wasn't passed down from an Italian grandmother, it doesn't bubble on the stove for an entire Sunday, there are no meatballs involved. It's basically some onions and garlic sauteed in a splash of olive oil, a can of plum tomatoes, some herbs if I have them, red pepper flakes if I'm feeling feisty, and a long, slow simmer. Like I said, it's nothing special, but I think it's better than what you can buy in a jar. The yachtsman does not agree.
So I've made adjustments, starting with a soffritto of garlic, onions, carrots, and celery, varying the herbs, adding red wine and sugar. I've pureed it all in the blender (the man does not like lumps). I've broken out cookbooks, making everything from a fussy Cook's Illustrated recipe to a hippie version with crumbled, fried tofu (which, by the way, was delicious). And each time the yachtsman will politely thank me, he'll spoon my sauce on top of his white spaghetti, and he'll eat it, a tepid look on his face. Then, the next time we're at the grocery store, he'll make sure to drop a couple of jars of sauce into our cart, a tactic that may win him the next battle, but I will never concede the war.
I didn't think much of this recipe the first time I read it—it seemed almost too simple, and I'd been leaning in the other direction, toward adding more ingredients, not using less. But on a snowy evening a few weeks ago I found myself home alone and hungry, the cupboards nearly bare, the night too cold to venture out. I did have one lonely onion, some butter, a can of tomatoes spinning on the lazy Susan, so I dumped them all in a saucepan, let everything simmer for nearly an hour, fished the onion back out, added a little salt, and poured the warm sauce over a tangle of whole wheat spaghetti. And my secret weapon was born.
A secret weapon with a secret ingredient: butter.
Butter! In tomato sauce!
And an onion that is not chopped or sauteed, it's halved and stewed and removed. The butter gives the sauce a depth and richness you can't get from olive oil or even a grate of fresh Parm. The onion adds flavor without overpowering, without adding any of that texture the yachtsman finds so pesky.
When I finally made it for him last weekend, I considered putting the sauce in a jar and pretending I'd bought it, but this is so much better than anything you can find on the shelves of a grocery store, I feared he would not be fooled. So I cooked it right in front of him, served it without a word, and waited for that polite but lukewarm smile. But it turns out we're not only rich in love, we're rich in tomato sauce now, too. Reader, I'm so glad I married him.
Homemade Tomato Sauce, Goddammit
from here and here, originally adapted by someone from here
28 ounces whole, peeled, canned plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste
1. Combine the tomatoes and their juice, the butter, and the onion in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce heat to low, and keep at a slow, steady simmer for 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomato. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pan to break them down. Remove the onion, taste the sauce, and add salt as needed.
[I ate my sauce like this...
and pureed the rest for the yachtsman,
which he ate over white spaghetti.
And I almost hate to tell you this for fear that you won't trust me anymore, but you were probably a fool to trust me in the first place, so here goes:
I combined the leftover sauce and pasta, heated it the next day for lunch, and it was really good. Trust me.]