If you pick any of the same wild herbs I do, one of the best things I’ve made, that’s simple and versatile for everyday cooking is a simple tomato sauce flavored with wild herbs. The wild herbs I usually have the most of are generally one of two things: dried monarda fistulosa leaves, and ramp leaves. Both of these herbs can be used by themselves, but they’re also special since they can be used together, and compliment each other, since the garlicky flavor of ramps pairs well with the oregano-ness of the bergamot. That being said, this sauce is a simple one, and notice that it’s described as tomato sauce with wild herbs, not wild herb tomato sauce. The herbs should be in the background, adding interest and body, they should be barely noticeable, adding them until their flavor is powerful might seem like a good idea, but to me it makes the sauce annoying to eat, like it’s trying to hard, does that make sense?
As the title implies, this is a spicy sauce, and a world of difference from the sweeter, more mild tomato sauce I was taught to make by my chef Angelo, who owned his own restaurant in Rome. If you want to make a non-spicy sauce, omit the chili flakes, wine and garlic. In their place, sweating no more than 1/2 cup of chopped carrot onion and celery before adding the wine and tomatoes to the pan can round out the flavor wonderfully.
Spicy Tomato Sauce with Wild Herbs
- 1 32 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
- 3 large cloves of garlic sliced as thin as possible
- 1/4 cup blended olive oil or mild olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- Kosher salt to taste about 3/4 teaspoon
- 1/2 tablespoon dried ramp leaves crumbled
- 1/2 tablespoon dried bergamot leaves crumbled, any large stems removed
- Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor, then strain the seeds out through a food mill (optional, but reccomended).
- Sweat the garlic in the oil very slowly, until nicely browned and aromatic (refer to picture above). When the garlic is perfectly browned, and the dried chili, ramp leaves and bergamot and stir, off the heat for a minute. Add the wine to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, puree the mixture with a hand blender, cover the pan and simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes or until the sauce is nicely reduced and thickened.
- Cool the sauce, then transfer to a labeled, dated container and refrigerate until needed.
- This is more than a pasta sauce, sometimes I like to cook it down as use it as a simple dip or topping for crispy things, fried polenta, roasted potatoes, croquettes and all sorts of things.
- The consistency can be a matter of personal taste. In
restaurant settings I generally make a thinner tomato sauce to account for additional cooking by the line cooks.