Cento then Pastene

by John Brandolini
(Eliot, ME, USA)

I prefer Cento when I can get it; however, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire where we shop (we live in Eliot, ME) that brand is not always available.

Pastene is a good substitute and is available at most supermarkets here but you got to read the cans to make sure you are getting imported Italian tomatoes. They use the same color scheme on their domestic tomatoes as they do on their imported ones. Btw, La Napolitana is good also since they are Pastene imported tomatoes packed under a different name. Both varieties are packed in puree instead of juice and have added basil. They come in 108 oz.(3059g)cans which a) makes them cheaper and b) produces less empty cans to dispose of.

I don't like to associate numbers with quality since I feel that a lot of that judgment is subjective so I'll just remark on my perception of the product. The Pastene tomatoes are nice and red, mildly sweet, low in acid, with very little salt. As I mentioned before they are packed in puree which avoids the addition of puree or extended simmering time to get a nice thick, rich sauce. Short of making sauce from fresh tomatoes that brand is the best locally available, in my opinion.

When I make sauce I usually add about a half pound (227g) chunk of Parma prosciutto to it. The prosciutto gives the sauce a nice smoky taste and becomes a really tender treat when the sauce is done. Domestic prosciutto is too salty; don't even bother to try it. I also add about a cup and a half of red wine to the sauce which enhances the taste of the tomatoes.

My meatballs are 50/50 pork and veal. I also add sausages as well. We eat a lot of pizza and macaroni so I usually make a months worth at a time and freeze it for later. The meatballs freeze well and keep about 4 to 6 weeks at zero F. I don't know about the sausages since they don't survive long enough to freeze. I think that's due to the fact that I make my own Tuscan style sausages.

Cio che non ammazza, ingrassa!! Ciao!

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