As Phyllis Grant writes, "This is not an ordinary, pour-from-the-jar sauce. This is a far more versatile, concentrated sauce base that I love to use in a zillion applications. [Editor's Note: See a few ideas below.] I cook the tomatoes down for several hours, until they reduce by about half, resulting in a jam-like consistency. This is especially satisfying to make in the middle of winter when good tomatoes are nowhere to be found."
Optional: Make the balsamic vinegar reduction if you don't have thick, aged balsamic on hand. Place 6 tablespoons (or more) of balsamic vinegar in a small pot. Place the pot over high heat until the vinegar boils. Turn the heat down to medium low—just low enough so that the vinegar is simmering. Keep simmering until the vinegar has reduced a bit more than halfway. (It won’t be thickened yet. Don’t worry. It will thicken up as it cools.) Save 2 tablespoons for the sauce and any excess for a topping.
Place all the sauce ingredients in a large pot. Stir. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat as low as possible to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 hours, preferably, until nearly all the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have the consistency of a loose jam or a dense apple-sauce.
Stir every 20 minutes or so to make sure the tomatoes don’t scorch. If the sauce base thickens too quickly or seems to be getting dry, add a bit of olive oil, wine, or
water. The longer you let it simmer, the more intense
it will taste. Remove the thyme sprigs. Season to taste.
Depending on how chunky a texture you like, purée half or all the sauce with a hand blender or in a food processor.
Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Or freeze for up to
A few things to do with this jammy goodness:
Dinner for 4:
Cook 1 pound of pasta in salted water until al dente. Reserve a large mugful of pasta water. Drain the pasta. Coat the pasta with 1 cup (or more) of Jammy Tomato Anchovy Sauce and as much pasta water as you need to loosen up the sauce and generously coat the noodles (start with 1/2 mug and keep adding). Put the remaining pasta water in a pitcher on the table. Serve this dish with any of the following toppings: pine nuts, chopped parsley, goat cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, balsamic reduction, bread crumbs, coarse salt, capers, or olives.
Lunch for 1:
Grill or toast some bread. Rub a peeled garlic clove all over the warm bread (it will disappear into the bread). Spread the bread generously with warm Jammy Tomato Anchovy Sauce. Top with an egg (poached or fried), a splash of olive oil, lemon zest, and coarse salt.
As a base for a pizza:
Spread the sauce over pizza dough and then top with slices of mozzarella and anchovy fillets. The moment you take the pizza out of the oven, top with a generous handful of baby arugula, a few splashes of olive oil, balsamic reduction, and toasted pine nuts.
As a condiment:
Use on a sandwich instead of chutney or ketchup.
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