Last year I wrote about making my tomato sauce from scratch—as any good gardener married to an Italian needs to do. But the truth is I have improved it this year with a new secret, thanks to another Italian.
Over the years I’ve tried it all, and I think this year I’ve finally gotten it right. My friend Anya Fernald, who is married to an Italian who actually still speaks the language, insists that you must remove the skins and possibly the seeds when you make sauce. She grates her tomatoes on a cheese grater and removes the skins. I tried that this year, and the sauce turned out way too sweet for me—even too sweet for my kids! Although, when I went to see Eat, Pray, Love and I saw the scene where they were eating pizza in Naples I thought, there’s my sauce without skin—on that pizza. Now, that could be good.
But back to the tomato sauce. My go-to method has been to use skins and all, but I have to confess that even after hours of cooking, my sauce can still be a bit watery. So I asked my friend Pat Corpora, who does not speak with an accent but was born in Italy and raised by his Sicilian parents. He told me that he and his wife (an amazing cook and painter herself) squeeze the juice out of the tomato before they puree the whole thing, skin, seeds, and all. Lo and behold, it makes awesome-tasting sauce that is not too watery.
You can use the juice to drink, or add it to soup!
I make giant batches of tomatoes, cook the sauce all day long, and then freeze it in quart-size glass jars that last all winter. To thaw, take the jar out the day before you need it or, if you forget, put it in the microwave for five minutes. Just don’t forget to take off the metal lid!
Maria’s New and Improved Tomato Sauce Recipe from Scratch
- 8 cups fresh tomatoes (cleaned, their juice squeezed out)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 sprig basil
- Olive oil
(I usually triple or quadruple the amounts of ingredients, depending on how many tomatoes I have.)
1. Take a big sauce pot and put it on the stove. Add a thin layer of olive oil.
2. Fill your blender, Vita-Mix, or food processor with cleaned and halved tomatoes, with every single bad spot cut out and the juice gently squeezed out into a separate bowl.
3. Add one or two raw cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a sprig of basil, and blend to a frothy pulp.
4. Add the tomato/garlic/basil mix.
5. You can keep adding batches of the processed tomatoes to the pot until you are out of tomatoes. (Sometimes I’ll have 8 to 10 blenderfuls of tomato pulp).
6. Simmer on the stove for hours. Really, hours. You want the sauce to get reduced to at least half of its original volume. If you have the patience to wait longer, it will only get better.
7. Clean some wide-mouth mason jars, fill with the hot sauce, and put the lids on. Leave at least an inch of space at the top for the sauce to expand as it freezes.
8. When the jars have cooled significantly, put them in the freezer. Be sure to label and date them.
9. When it’s time to eat, you can use this as a base to make other sauces, or just use it plain. My favorite is to add a little bit of butter to the sauce, and then serve with Romano Cheese. Yum.
Perennial Love, Part 2
As promised, we’re closing out tomato week on Rodale.com with Part 2 of the flavorful romantic film, Perennial Love. Will Lady Brandywine find true love with Count Roma? Will a stranger from her past spice things up, or turn everything sour? You can see Part 1 in yesterday’s post.
And so, without further ado: