I don’t really buy cookbooks anymore because I have copy of the world’s largest cookbook, it’s called THE INTERNET. But one weekend afternoon, my husband and I stopped at Café Pedlar to get a cup of coffee (I got a really gorgeous cappuccino) and while we were waiting I noticed the The Frankies Spuntino cookbook for sale. The last time I ate at Frankies Spuntino I had gnocchi so good I actually got tears in my eyes because it reminded me so much of my grandmom.
I bought the cookbook. Obviously.
And then I read it cover to cover. (I actually love the cover too.) It’s not just a regular cookbook, it’s full of stories about both Frankies’ Italian-American upbringing. They share their histories and philosophy about food, and it’s really interesting, even funny. And it makes you want to cook! And eat.
There are, of course, a lot of recipes too. They are “updated” Italian-American recipes, so there is not a lot of heavy fried stuff. But “updated” doesn’t mean “fancified.” Most of it is really pared down, simple food. That’s their whole thing: Easy, low-stress, and very, very delicious.
While it left me inspired to cook, I got this book in late August, so I wasn’t really into spending a lot of time around a hot stove, or even eating big meals. The first recipe I tried was the Parsley Pesto, which I then used for the Cremini Mushroom & Truffle Oil Crostini. And then I made the Cremini & Truffle Oil Crostini like four more times, because it’s SO GOOD. I know that particular recipe sounds really fancy and complicated, but it was easy, especially because I do keep truffle oil around. It makes the simplest things taste super-fancy!
Anyway, now we’re starting to get into cooking weather! Over the weekend, we took the air-conditioners out, and yesterday we had the Eagles game on (via slingbox because in NYC you get mostly Giants and Jets) so I decided it was time to make sauce. If we’re sitting inside on a beautiful Sunday watching football, we might as well be simmering the sauce for four hours too. After the initial setup, we just had to stir during commercials.
They say the recipe makes three quarts, and judging from the amount of tomatoes I started out with, I thought I’d have tons of sauce in the freezer. I ended up with two 24oz Gladware soup & salad containers, plus what we used on our spaghetti and meatballs (whole wheat & turkey) for dinner. Maybe I had the burner up too high, or left it on too long, but I kind of don’t care because my sauce came out A-W-E-S-O-M-E. I think as long as you don't burn the garlic, it's pretty hard to get anything but totally amazing results. Meanwhile, my husband thinks I'm magic. Which is true, but not necessary for this recipe.
At first I was worried about reprinting the recipe, but it turns out it’s all over the internet anyway. Plus, once you taste this sauce, I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to buy the bookand cook other stuff.
For the tomatoes, the Frankies recommend La Valle brand tomatoes, but said the San Marzanos in that brand are expensive, yet their regular Italian tomatoes are excellent and fairly priced, so that's what they use at their restaurants. I went with Cento brand San Marzanos because that’s what my store had. If you do want to buy San Marzanos, try to get cans that actually say “Product of Italy” and "DOP" because there are apparently fake San Marzano tomatoes. Otherwise, just get tomatoes, I’m sure it will be fine. If you've never shopped for canned tomatoes, try not to get overwhelmed, there are soooo many kinds!
1c olive oil
13 whole cloves of garlic, peeledDirections
1 96oz can, or 4 28oz cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
Large pinch of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste
Combine the olive oil and garlic in a large deep saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring or swirling occasionally, until the garlic is deeply colored—striations of deep brown running through the golden cloves—and fragrant. If the garlic starts to smell acrid or sharp or is taking on color quickly, pull the pan off the stove and reduce the heat.
While the garlic is getting golden, deal with the tomatoes: Pour them into a bowl and crush them with your hands. We like to pull out the firmer stem ends from each of the tomatoes as we crush them and discard those along with the basil leaves that are packed into the can.
When the garlic is just about done, add the red pepper flakes to the oil and cook them for 30 seconds or a minute, to infuse their flavor and spice into the oil. Dump in the tomatoes, add the salt, and stir well. Turn the heat up to medium, set the sauce simmering at a gentle pace, not aggressively, and simmer for 4 hours. Stir it from time to time. Mother it a little bit.
Check the sauce for salt at the end. The sauce can be cooked with meat at this point, or stored, covered, in the fridge for at least 4 days or frozen for up to a few months.I think only one of my Gladware containers is going to make it into the freezer. Even though I had the sauce last night for dinner, and then leftovers today for lunch, I know we could easily eat it again this week. And at this point all I have to do is boil the water for pasta! Unless I decide to make some from scratch…