3-4 minced garlic cloves
3-4 chopped shallot bulbs
1 minced carrot
dried chilli pepper flakes (to taste – I like to use a lot, at least a tablespoon)
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 C red wine (merlot)
4 T capers
3/4 C chopped kalamata olives
2 12 oz. cans of tomatoes (whole, diced, crushed, whatever)
1 C chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley)
Sauté the carrots and shallots in olive oil, sprinkling with salt to sweat the shallots. Add in the garlic being certain it doesn’t brown (as that makes the garlic bitter). Add fresh cracked black pepper and chilli flakes. Once you’ve sautéed on medium for a minute or so, add the merlot (or another full-bodied, low tannin red). Reduce the wine 1/2 and then add in the rinsed, drained capers and the olives. Allow the wine to reduce a little more, and then add in the tomatoes. Simmer this whole mixture on low for about 15 min before you add in 3/4 C of the chopped herbs. Here you may also add in some fresh grated hard cheeses, (such as pecorino, grana, parmesan), but not too much, as you’ll add in more to finish the sauce before serving. You could also add in any rinds you have from those cheeses. Once I’ve used all the usable cheese, I keep the rinds in the fridge to put into sauces and soups to flavour them. (You don’t eat them of course). Simmer this for another 20 min or so. The longer you simmer this, the more the flavours will meld together, and you’ll get a richer sauce.
Once you’re almost ready to serve the sauce, check it for acidity. The carrot is added because it is slightly sweet and will balance the acidity of the tomatoes and wine. Adding in a splash of red wine vinegar will both boost the flavour and acidity (if needed) and will decrease the spiciness of the chilli flakes, but be careful, for if it is to acidic, well then you’ve put too much in, so don’t do that! And you will probably not even need to add any at all. You could also add in 8 oz or so of ricotta to make it even cheesier/more delicious.
Once you’ve fixed the sauce, mix it with your pasta, and then top with the rest of the fresh herbs and freshly grated cheeses. Drizzle a little bit of fresh olive oil and serve with toasted bread.
I prefer this kind of chunky sauce with a short pasta like fusilli, gnocci, penne, etc. You could also make this sauce and add in home-made meatballs, but the olives, capers, wine and cheeses really give this sauce a body and richness that replaces what you would get from the meat, so it really doesn’t need it.
If I have peppers or mushrooms, I like to dice them, and sauté them apart from the sauce and then add them towards the end of cooking, so they get a good colour on them and still have texture to them in the sauce. Also, if you’re not vegetarian, adding 2 anchovies to this (with the garlic and shallots) really gives the sauce nice body and depth of flavour.