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Old 02-20-2015, 12:49 PM   #1
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Sunday Gravy/Marinara Sauce

I've made a decision. I love a good tomato based sauce, be it Bolognaise, Marinara, Sauce Tomate, whatever. My own favorite sauce is made up of diced tomato, tomato puree, tomato paste, fresh garlic, basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme. Add to that rustic chopped onion, and sometimes, some diced bell pepper, even carrot occasionally. Usually, I add browned ground beef, sometimes home-made meatballs. I never cook it longer than an hour. I like to quickly chill it and let it sleep in the fridge overnight, reheat and serve the next day over spaghetti, or some kind of pasta. The flavors are bright and pronounced. I can distinguish all of them in my mouth.

So, we had a pot luck at work today. I made my sauce the same way, with home-made meatballs this time. I let it cook all night in the slow cooker after initially building the sauce on the stove. It tasted great when I put it into the slow cooker. I tasted it this morning, and much of the flavor was diminished. I added more herbs and got it tasting right again. I took it to work and let it simmer until lunch. I just got done eating it with spaghetti noodles. The meatballs were great, but the sauce was downright boring, no pop of herb goodness. I just don't understand why people talk all the time about simmering a good sauce for hours, to let the flavors blend.

For me, I like my flavors bright and distinctive. I don't think I will ever slow cook my tomato sauces anymore. All of the essential flavor oils disappear into the air, rather than stay where they belong, in the sauce.

If anyone can explain to me the reason for slow cooking/simmering a sauce for a long time, that makes sense, I'd be glad for the explanation, or to know what I'm doing wrong that makes every slow-cooked tomato sauce I've cooked taste so boring.

Now it just might be that as I like strong flavors, I'm not your average pasta sauce lover. Maybe my desire for pronounced herb/tomato flavor is unique to me. I don't know. I just know that I like a young sauce better.

Seeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North

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Old 02-20-2015, 01:05 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chief Longwind Of The North View Post
I've made a decision. I love a good tomato based sauce, be it Bolognaise, Marinara, Sauce Tomate, whatever. My own favorite sauce is made up of diced tomato, tomato puree, tomato paste, fresh garlic, basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme. Add to that rustic chopped onion, and sometimes, some diced bell pepper, even carrot occasionally. Usually, I add browned ground beef, sometimes home-made meatballs. I never cook it longer than an hour. I like to quickly chill it and let it sleep in the fridge overnight, reheat and serve the next day over spaghetti, or some kind of pasta. The flavors are bright and pronounced. I can distinguish all of them in my mouth.

So, we had a pot luck at work today. I made my sauce the same way, with home-made meatballs this time. I let it cook all night in the slow cooker after initially building the sauce on the stove. It tasted great when I put it into the slow cooker. I tasted it this morning, and much of the flavor was diminished. I added more herbs and got it tasting right again. I took it to work and let it simmer until lunch. I just got done eating it with spaghetti noodles. The meatballs were great, but the sauce was downright boring, no pop of herb goodness. I just don't understand why people talk all the time about simmering a good sauce for hours, to let the flavors blend.

For me, I like my flavors bright and distinctive. I don't think I will ever slow cook my tomato sauces anymore. All of the essential flavor oils disappear into the air, rather than stay where they belong, in the sauce.

If anyone can explain to me the reason for slow cooking/simmering a sauce for a long time, that makes sense, I'd be glad for the explanation, or to know what I'm doing wrong that makes every slow-cooked tomato sauce I've cooked taste so boring.

Now it just might be that as I like strong flavors, I'm not your average pasta sauce lover. Maybe my desire for pronounced herb/tomato flavor is unique to me. I don't know. I just know that I like a young sauce better.

Seeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
Chief, I think you went wrong in using the crock pot. In my opinion, everything I've cooked in one has the same problem of dulling flavors that just doesn't happen with attentive cooking on the stove top. It would be a better choice to use the crock pot only for reheating and serving your sauce.
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Old 02-20-2015, 01:22 PM   #3
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I do my Sunday gravy in the oven for about 90 minutes tops and then remove the meat to a separate container. I like to let the sauce sit in the refrigerator overnight so that I can lift off any of the orange fat that congeals on the surface. I make marinara sauce in 30 minutes or less on top of the stove.

IMO the idea of long simmering sauces, soups, etc... are a holdover to the days when everyone cooked on a wood burning stove and had no mechanical refrigeration.
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Old 02-20-2015, 01:55 PM   #4
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My recipe (that I carry around in my head, not written anywhere) is pretty similar to yours Chief. I use whole tomatoes, broken up with a wooden spoon, and I use savory and a couple bay leafs instead of rosemary / thyme. I like to add mushrooms as I don't often use these, so it's special to add them in there. A healthy splash of red wine, if I have some, don't usually have wine on hand either, so mostly not. Fresh basil gets put in very near the end of cooking time. And my secret, a pinch of brown sugar to finish the sauce. I cook no more than 2 hours slow simmer.
I think the herbs are still flavorful even through the tomato flavor.

While I write this, I remember now, I have added more herbs later cooking sometimes too, never understood any reason, except some occasions they don't hold their flavor. My herbs are relatively recent purchases/ fresh dried so I know they are not old.

We were at a friend;s party last weekend. It was his job to make Spaghetti sauce. His wife kept on his back it's time to start cooking the sauce. He kept saying, no it's not time yet. I'm sure she wanted a clean
kitchen before guests arrive and he wanted his sauce to be prime flavor. Didn't realize one of the things may be the status of the herbs in the sauce. don't know his rationale, all he kept saying was he wanted the veggies(onions and celery) to not be over- cooked/ crisp tender. I think his sauce was good tasting.

I almost only use a crock pot to keep food warm, like yes, take it to the office or a party. I could probably count fingers on one hand if I ever actually cooked something in it. I think I read somewhere but don't quote me, that herbs should be added towards the end of cooking in a crock pot. Although how they might dissipate, I am not sure. The lids on those things are quite tight fitting and I would think herbs should be more absorbed in the food than loosing flavor.
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Old 02-20-2015, 02:51 PM   #5
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I have found pasta sauce to be a very personal thing.

Everyone thinks their own is the best and isn't interested in changing. Also, if an individual is of Italian heritage, they often offer that as an unarguable justification their sauce MUST be the best. No offense to Italians, I love their food. If you are from a long line of pasta sauce experts, you probably make it the way you do because that's the way your mom, grandma, great grandma made it. Nothing wrong with that.

I make a Sunday ragu with meatballs and sausages based on a recipe I saw on an old cooking show (the chef was Italian). It cooks for several hours. I love the taste and so do most others who eat it. I see no reason to change.

I also make a quicker meatless sauce I cook for less than an hour. It's a lot easier to extract flavors from veggies than meats. I've tried bay, rosemary and thyme in sauces. They didn't do it for me so I stopped using them.

To each his own. My daughter prefers jarred sauces.
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Old 02-20-2015, 05:22 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
I have found pasta sauce to be a very personal thing.

Everyone thinks their own is the best and isn't interested in changing. Also, if an individual is of Italian heritage, they often offer that as an unarguable justification their sauce MUST be the best. No offense to Italians, I love their food. If you are from a long line of pasta sauce experts, you probably make it the way you do because that's the way your mom, grandma, great grandma made it. Nothing wrong with that.

I make a Sunday ragu with meatballs and sausages based on a recipe I saw on an old cooking show (the chef was Italian). It cooks for several hours. I love the taste and so do most others who eat it. I see no reason to change.

I also make a quicker meatless sauce I cook for less than an hour. It's a lot easier to extract flavors from veggies than meats. I've tried bay, rosemary and thyme in sauces. They didn't do it for me so I stopped using them.

To each his own. My daughter prefers jarred sauces.
My sauce is my own creation, though it was inspired in the strangest of places, a U.S. Navy chow hall. The sauce I had there, so many years ago (1975, while in boot camp) had flavors I'd never tasted before in pasta sauce, though I remember the texture being very watery. That gave me the desire to start learning about herbs, spices, and flavorings.

Though I know how to season the sauce the way I enjoy it, and most others who have ever tried it, I've never before cooked it low and slow, and so really didn't understand that the volatile oils that give herbs their unique flavors, evaporate off, leaving the food bland. I'd always heard about the best sauces cooked all day.

As I think back though, what the others have posted here make perfect sense, adding herbs at the end of cooking time, and the amount of time the sauce is allowed to cook. Also, a very successful pizza chain in Michigan places their herbs into plain, cold tomato puree in large hotel pans, and places them into refers for the next day, to allow the herbs to give up their flavor. The sauce is robust, but isn't cooked until it's covering a pizza and in the pizza oven.

All of you have helped me understand what I already should have known. I just did what I did, not from intelligent thinking, but because I've heard many people say that the best sauces are cooked all day. I'm usually the guy who asks "What makes that better? Prove it to me." This time, I went against my own thought process, and was disappointed.

Thanks everyone. You were very helpful.

Seeeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
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Old 02-21-2015, 06:41 AM   #7
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Chief, Every Italian Noni I have ever know always puts in a few flakes of red pepper. Not a lot, just about three to five. Seeds also if the happen to get caught up.

I am going to toss my crock pot that I just had to have. After just a couple of uses, I won't be using it anymore. Like previously said by other posters, cooking soups, sauces, etc., leaves the food tasting flat. I make a mean Yankee Pot Roast. But when I made my last one in the crock pot, it left a whole lot to be desired taste wise. The crock pot just seemed to kill any flavor. I get much better results using my stove. And I made it the same way as I do on top on the stove. I find the crock pot adds too much extra liquid and that robs the juices of flavor.

I would suggest sticking to the stove for sauces and gravies. And for that pasta Sunday gravy, add a few pepper flakes. It doesn't make it hot, just perks it up a great deal.
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Old 02-21-2015, 06:57 AM   #8
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Chief, Every Italian Noni I have ever know always puts in a few flakes of red pepper. Not a lot, just about three to five. Seeds also if the happen to get caught up.

I am going to toss my crock pot that I just had to have. After just a couple of uses, I won't be using it anymore. Like previously said by other posters, cooking soups, sauces, etc., leaves the food tasting flat. I make a mean Yankee Pot Roast. But when I made my last one in the crock pot, it left a whole lot to be desired taste wise. The crock pot just seemed to kill any flavor. I get much better results using my stove. And I made it the same way as I do on top on the stove. I find the crock pot adds too much extra liquid and that robs the juices of flavor.

I would suggest sticking to the stove for sauces and gravies. And for that pasta Sunday gravy, add a few pepper flakes. It doesn't make it hot, just perks it up a great deal.
I believe, those are the reasons they originally went the way of the dinosaurs back in the '70's. I have always done my "gravy" on the stove top and always refresh the herbs just a few minutes before serving.
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Old 02-21-2015, 07:43 AM   #9
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I believe, those are the reasons they originally went the way of the dinosaurs back in the '70's. I have always done my "gravy" on the stove top and always refresh the herbs just a few minutes before serving.
Fortunately I didn't pay much for mine. All I have to do is put it down in the Community Room and someone will take it. They think they are getting away with stealing it. When someone dies in this building, the vultures come out to see what the family is not taking when they clean out the apartment.
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:23 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Addie View Post
I am going to toss my crock pot that I just had to have. After just a couple of uses, I won't be using it anymore. Like previously said by other posters, cooking soups, sauces, etc., leaves the food tasting flat. I make a mean Yankee Pot Roast. But when I made my last one in the crock pot, it left a whole lot to be desired taste wise. The crock pot just seemed to kill any flavor. I get much better results using my stove. And I made it the same way as I do on top on the stove. I find the crock pot adds too much extra liquid and that robs the juices of flavor.

I would suggest sticking to the stove for sauces and gravies. And for that pasta Sunday gravy, add a few pepper flakes. It doesn't make it hot, just perks it up a great deal.
We gave our high tech, large, LED readout type crock pot to our daughter who is a massage therapist. She uses it to keep towels warm.

I am not dead set against slow cookers, but I have learned one very important step that takes the ease out of using a crock pot, thus rendering the crock pot useless as far as convenience.
That step is browning any meat or vegetables before adding them to the slow cooker.
If I were to make a pot roast in one (i may never again but who knows) I would brown the roast on the stove top until chocolate brown, then remove and deglaze adding the remaining liquid to the crock pot.
This alone can be the difference between a very tender roast with little taste or a very tender roast with a great taste.

In any case I prefer to brown, then simmer pot roast in a 300F oven for 2.5 to 3 hours. I always use beer for the liquid. Unless I'm low on beer for drinking.
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