A couple of years in the past, I learn someplace that Italians by no means use onions and garlic of their marinara; it’s all the time one or the opposite. Like so many black-and-white cooking “guidelines” you come throughout on-line, this one didn’t stand as much as cursory Googling—it is perhaps true in some areas of Italy, however it’s extra of an old-school superstition than an inviolable legislation of Italian delicacies. Typically, although, it’s a must to hand it to old-school superstition: After I began utilizing solely garlic in my purple sauce, I genuinely felt like I’d unlocked a central secret of the universe.
Superstition or not, selecting between the 2 alliums makes a variety of sense. Onions and garlic complement one another for certain, however once they’re mixed, they virtually cancel one another out. Rather than the distinct taste of onion and garlic, usually you what you style is just “one thing good.” Should you stick to 1, its taste turns into a characteristic of the dish reasonably than a supporting function. In a dish so simple as marinara, this selection finally ends up making an enormous distinction within the taste profile of the completed sauce; you’ll be able to actually style each ingredient, particularly your allium of selection.
For me, that allium is garlic each time. With the very notable exception of Marcella Hazan’s tomato-butter sauce, I’ve all the time been lukewarm at greatest about onions in my purple sauce. It’s largely a texture factor: Minced onions melted into olive oil or butter is one factor, however a medium-to-large cube in an in any other case silky sauce simply upsets me. In the meantime, even roughly chopped garlic finally ends up pleasantly comfortable when simmered for a very long time. I additionally simply favor the stronger taste that garlic brings to the desk, significantly when it’s mixed with cooked tomatoes and olive oil.
My purple sauce recipe is barely even a recipe at this level, however to provide you an concept, right here’s how I make it. I prepare dinner 10-12 cloves of chopped garlic, a teaspoon of crushed purple pepper, and half a cup of olive oil in a really huge pot for five minutes over medium-low warmth. Whereas that’s occurring, I exploit my stick blender to purée a #10 can of complete tomatoes (which is about 4 28-ounce cans), then add that to the pot. I deliver the entire thing to a tough boil and preserve it there for possibly 5 minutes, then cut back the warmth and simmer till it’s diminished by virtually half and the oil has began to separate. This often takes about 4 hours. I end it off with salt, sugar—I purchase low-cost, acidic restaurant provide retailer canned tomatoes; sugar is an absolute necessity—and further purple pepper to style.
To me, my purple sauce is ideal: Tremendous-garlicky, barely spicy, and with a great deal of wealthy, balanced tomato taste. (All that olive oil virtually confits the tomatoes as they prepare dinner down; bellissimo, as they are saying.) However I believe it could be simply nearly as good with onions as a substitute of garlic, significantly when you favor a milder, sweeter sauce. You might even swap the olive oil for butter, and possibly brown it first—I’m certain Marcella would approve.