We bought a box of ravioli from Borgatti’s just off Arthur Avenue last November. We didn’t know it at the time, but Mario Borgatti, the 97-year-old pasta daddy legend, had passed away a month prior. After a long day spent roaming the Bronx in typical Michael+Sylvie walking adventure fashion, I was promised a food destination to end all food destinations, even tho I was the one tasked with pulling one up on Yelp. Yes, I did find us a great sandwich spot called Tino’s where we polished off the perfect eggplant parm hero, but then Michael made eyes with a ravioli specialty shop and we were both lured into a mouse hole filled with oils, jarred sauces, dried porcini, carrot, and squid ink noodles, and the entire Borgatti family behind the counter in a garrulous production line---running pasta through a hand cutter, dusting ravs with cornmeal, wrapping them up in butcher paper---but talking about things like doctor appointments, new movies, and what Joe said the other day as if making ravioli at the store was something they all did to bide time before sitting down to dinner. We carried our box of twenty-seven handcrafted cheese raviolis back to Brooklyn and stored them in the freezer for a rainy day.
This past Saturday wasn't rainy, but I did want to cook something despite not having much to work with in the kitchen, since I also didn't want to go grocery shopping because Michael and I are both going away this weekend. Looking around, I came up with a can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, an onion, and the butter I almost never use because I don’t do a lot of baking or bread toasting. And that’s when I remembered the tomato sauce I’d been reading and reading about for years: Marcella Hazan’s 3-ingredient sauce. Out came the ravioli.
Michael’s grandma lives around the corner from us, so I told him to invite her over for dinner because there was no guiltless way I would be leaving either of us alone in the apartment with a big pot of sauce and ravs. Wonderful things like that are simply left for the heavens. I also figured we could send her home with the leftovers, which would help obtain our fix while simultaneously avoiding the coma.
Tomato sauce made with the usual kiddos---olive oil, garlic, oregano, parsley, basil, tomato paste, wine, etc.---is all well and good and I have been sucking down tomato sauce that way since I was a baby in a highchair, but there are times when I want to try something different, especially when something different requires little to no effort. According to Marcella, all I had to do was open the can of San Marzano, peel the onion, cut it in half, slice off 5 tablespoons of butter, plop it all into a saucepan over medium heat, add a pinch of salt, and let it cook uncovered at a slow but steady simmer for around 45 minutes. With very little prep and cleanup to do, I moved into the other room to do some writing and to feel good about myself. It soon became hard to write though because of how glorious the apartment was beginning to smell. Clearly, butter, tomatoes, and an onion is all that is needed to stir the baby awake… or put it to sleep… it has to go both ways. I took breaks to stir and taste, stir and taste. Afraid that I might lick the whole pan gone, I turned my attention to the ravioli.
For the record, I will be eating ravioli from the Borgatti Family from here on out. I want to cry they were so good. Sauce or no sauce.
Speaking of sauce, that sauce was the bomb and tasted even better spooned over the ravs. Two people begged to differ. Michael’s grandma told my mother-in-law, who told Michael, who told me, that the sauce was “no good.”
“No good?!” I say, my voice raised. “No good?!”
“Yeah, it was pretty horrible,” Michael says bluntly.
“You’re crazy, it was delicious!” I shoot back.
“Did you follow a recipe? I bet you followed a recipe. You don’t follow a recipe for sauce.”
“I did not follow a recipe,” I lie.
“Ehh, I think you followed a recipe,” he says.
“What the hell was wrong with it? It was tomatoes, onion, butter---”
“Butter?! You don’t put butter in tomato sauce,” he says.
“You do! You can! People do! They are!” I am sputtering.
“Just leave the sauce to me from now on,” he says.
And then it’s all I can see: the address book out and the phone calls being made to extended family members letting them know that her grandson’s wife cannot make sauce.
I can make sauce!
Maybe it's Marcella Hazan who can't.
No, but seriously, her sauce is amazing. Here's the recipe.
Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce (Adapted from the New York Times)
- 2 cups tomatoes, with their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta. (Although Michael and his grandma thought otherwise.)