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True comfort in food

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There are certain smells that just call to us as individuals. Some come from outside--the smell of sweet jasmine in the summer, or of freshly-cut grass. Some come from the inside of an oven, or on top of a stove...perhaps even on a grill. These scents awaken our olfactory system, setting our bodies in motion for a culinary experience which is second to none. Oh, perhaps it revolves around a 5-star feast that would make any gourmand melt into a pile of goo, but more often than not these gastronomic creations come not just from the home, but from the heart. In a phrase, I'm talking comfort food.


I have two dishes which will tug at my stomach strings in ways that nothing else can.


One is a good spaghetti gravy...or, for those of you who are not of the Italian-American persuasion, I'm talking about a tomato rag

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My wife's grandma is Italian, her parents were immigrants. She has the simplest yet savoriest spaghetti sauce I've ever had. Now that I've had it, most other sauces taste too sweet and overly seasoned. I don't know the exact quantities but it goes something like this:


Mix up a small can of tomato paste, fresh garlic, and olive oil in your pan and get an oily wad of paste going. Cook this on low heat for a while, moving it constantly, until it darkens a bit like its been browned. This part can take a little while and if you over do it, it will ruin the taste. This will mellow out the flavor of the paste and get some good tomato garlic flavor into the oil. Slowly add a large can of plain tomato sauce and some chicken broth and make sure you mix up that wad of paste. Make it a little runny and just let it reduce for a bit. Towards the end, add a little bit of fresh basil, parsley, onion, and perhaps salt. A little goes a long way. Its not extravagant, but I think the flavor is perfect.

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