All this for a recipe using canned tomatoes. Don't get me wrong; I usually use canned tomatoes for tomato sauce—but I also add garlic, red pepper, and a few herbs at a minimum, and maybe some red wine and/or cream for good measure. This recipe involves only three ingredients: butter, onion, and a 28-ounce can of tomatoes. It didn't sound that promising to me. Then again, Lam described it as "a tomato sauce that starts out tart, and yet subtly sweeter than normal; not sugary, but a mellow sweetness from whole simmered onion. It goes from there to a warming richness, the creamy taste of butter, and after that, the lingering depth of slow-cooked tomatoes."
I’d recently made some ravioli that I thought would benefit from a simple sauce, and I happened to have everything I needed for this recipe on hand, so I decided to give it a try. In a departure from my usual cooking methods, I stuck very closely to the instructions. OK, I cut the onion into quarters instead of halves, theorizing that more exposed surface area would flavor the sauce more (bad idea: it fell apart, which made it difficult to fish out at the end). And it nearly killed me not to add garlic or herbs while it was cooking, but I did it.
The result? It was . . . fine. A little flat, with a slight canned flavor. Nothing some garlic, basil, and red wine wouldn't fix—and when I reheated the sauce the next day, I added all of those ingredients, which improved it considerably. But it certainly wasn't transcendent, or even particularly good.
I'm not sure what went wrong with such a simple recipe—maybe better tomatoes are the answer. I'd say I'll try that next time, but I don't think there's going to be a next time. For one thing, I'll probably be busy testing out Ruth Reichl's theories on how to make a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich and what Lam swears is the "best, lightest pancake recipe ever."