New and Improved Tomato Sauce Recipe (from Scratch)

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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!

Ingredients:

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 this amount, depending on how many tomatoes I have.)

Directions:

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:

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21 Responses to New and Improved Tomato Sauce Recipe (from Scratch)

  1. Alina September 3, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Sounds wonderful. I am not sure I understand why to puree it if it falls apart in hours of cooking. Is there a difference in taste?
    Also, I have never put a jar in freezer because I thought it would burst. Has that ever happened to you? Sounds great, just need to find more room in a freezer. I use the zip locks. Is glass safer?

  2. Donata September 3, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    How simple, I love it. I make a sauce very similar but with fresh oregano instead of basil, and I add peppercorns, but the rest of the recipe is identical. I put everything in the blender and make a bloody mary with the first batch, then reduce the rest until it’s a lovely deep red and thickens up a bit.

  3. maria (farm country kitchen) September 3, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    You guys are hysterical! It had it all — hero, villian, twin, kidnapping, ritual death and….the ending we all crave. Thank you Rick and team!!!!

  4. Amanda September 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    Oh to have been a fly on the wall while the Rodale, Inc. staff was making that video! Hilarious!

  5. Cyndie September 3, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    lol! Entertaining!

  6. Magz September 4, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    The secret to freezing in canning jars is to use only wide-mouth bottles, those with no shoulders. The contents in the wide-mouth jars can freeze up through the neck without breaking the glass.

  7. maria (farm country kitchen) September 4, 2010 at 7:21 am #

    Also, you MUST leave about and inch (or two) of space at the top of the jar because stuff expands when frozen — that’s what breaks the jars!

  8. Nancy September 4, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    I have always canned peaches. Last year I froze slices in pint canning jars with a “very lite” syrup. I have been using them all year. I put a wadded up piece of wax paper on top to keep them down in the syrup. I use them in my yogurt, and oatmeal (add pinch of cinnamon and brown sugar YUM.) Will probably freeze them from now on.

  9. Alina September 8, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    Oh, thanks. I definitely will try it. LOVE the idea of canned peaches. Thanks a million.

  10. Janice September 8, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    Delicious tomato sauce creation that should compliment any whole grain pasta or whole grain pizza crust. I anticipate a hearty cooking experience using the recipe.

  11. Jennie September 8, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    Between having a baby and moving this summer, I had to find a super easy way to preserve all of my tomatoes. What I ended up doing was just quartering the tomatoes, and then throwing them in a huge pot and letting it cook for several hours. I found I could cut up about 20 lbs of tomatoes in a half hour this way, or if I only got 10 minutes at a time, I could start them cooking and just add the rest when I got a little more time. After the sauce had reduced I then put it all though a food mill which took out all of the seeds and skins. From that point I froze some to just have plain tomatoes to add to a recipe and with the rest I added garlic and basil to make a nice sauce. I was able to process about 80 pounds of tomatoes this way in between taking care of a newborn and packing.

  12. Gina September 9, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    My family and I make our Sauce every year from fresh tomatoes. It’s a family tradition. and we call it Nonna Fina Sauce, after my mother in law who use to make at least 100 – 32 oz containers every year. Our sauce is not loose and it taste heavenly!! My daughters and I just finished cooking 4 bushels of tomatoes . You only use plum tomatoes because they have the most pulp. The other tomatoes have too much juice/water. We put them in plastic containers and freeze them. Here is my families recipe.
    I have pics and step by step video if you would like to see this and my italian recipes go to http://mamagrecipes.blogspot.com

    Fresh Garden Tomato Sauce. A September Ritual. Us Italians just like to do more work! 4 Bushels = 7 hours of prep/cooking = 70 – 32oz plastic containers to freeze! Yes that’s right. I have a freezer Just for my sauce. Now that’s Italian or I’m just crazy. Maybe a little of both.
    1st Step: Plum Tomatoes. Wash w/ dish soap and warm water. Place plum tomatoes on a large towel so they can dry.

    2. Cut them up into 4 pieces. In large deep cooking pot put a little bit of olive oil just enough to coat the bottom and then put in the chopped up tomatoes. Only fill the pot 3/4 the way full.
    Add 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp garlic, 4 pieces chopped basil. Boil and stir until tomatoes become soft and you see the skin on them peeling off. If you pinch one the sink peels off easy.

    3. Take the tomatoes and pour them into a tomato milling machine or strainer machine. (pics on my blogspot) As you turn the handle you will see the pulp and juices come out on one side and the skin of the tomato on the other side.

    Put the skins of the tomato through atleast 3 – 4 times. You will get a lot of pulp from the skins.

    4. Next throw out the skins and place all the tomato sauce into a deep cooking pot.
    Add 1/4 cup Olive Oil
    2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar
    1/2 tsp black pepper, granulated garlic powder
    6 gloves of garlic. sliced in half only
    8 chopped up pieces of basil.
    Cook for about 30 – 45 minutes. Stirring frequently. the sauce will become thick by boiling out the water from the tomatoes.

    5. Place in 32 oz or 16 oz plastic containers and freeze. Last for over a year. to defrost. Lift cover and place on top on container place in microwave for 7 minutes and then cook in sauce pot until hot.

  13. Judy September 27, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    I made a batch this weekend and it is the best tomato sauce I have EVER had! The only change I made was to add a few shakes of red pepper flakes to give it some zing. And I only used about a teaspoon of salt for the whole pot. Next summer I will definitely grow more tomatoes now that I have found something delicious to do with them!

  14. nantucketdaffodil August 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    I will try this tomorrow! Thanks!! By squeeze out the juices…exactly what was your process?

  15. maria (farm country kitchen) August 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    I don’t squeeze out the juices…just keep cooking till the juice cooks off! (About 5 hours). This time I tried blanching the basil first, just like for my green pesto.

  16. Gina August 27, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Maria,
    Please go to my site mamagrecipes.blogspot.com. I am italian, owned a Pizzeria Italian Restuarant for 28 years and am married to a wonderful Italian born man. There are step by step instructions on how to make fresh sauce. All my family makes it this way for atleast 100+ years. I just received my new tomate mill machine and wow!!!! it really gets out the thickest pulp ever. Fresh sauce is not very thick sauce, so if you are looking for that type of sauce then don’t make the fresh sauce. The Italians in Italy use to lay out the tomatoes on a board in the sun to dry up a bit to make paste to mix with their cooking sauce/puree for a thick sauce. I like to read new recipes but the one you have for your sauce is not the way us Italians do it at all… and it doesn’t take hours to boil out the liquid. I cook mine for only 45 minutes. so, please you asked your friends and obviously they don’t know how to do it and using a cheese grater please… on 6 bushels of tomatoes is insane. I made this year 113 _ 32 oz of (we call it after my mother in law) Nonna Fina Fresh Sauce. We are all very honored that my mother in law taught us how to make Fresh Sauce and will always have her in our memories of the best sauce ever!!! By the way, our whole family is in the restaurant business – all from Italy and learned how to cook the old fashion way – with of course new techniques to make it easier. So, If you do read your comments then please read my blog for italian recipes.

  17. Pridy September 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    I too made tomato sauce this year, very similar recipe but added more “green stuff” for nutirition ( finely chopped kale, grated zucchini, oregano, parsley). I think that much energy would be saved in your method if you did not cook for so long and if you just sealed the jarred sauce without freezing. I find that frozen sauces become watery from ice build up, so the long cooking to reduce the watery texture at the construction stage is reversed when it thaws.

  18. Jane Pellicciotto September 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    Nice post Maria. I go back and forth between seeds, no seeds, skin no skin, both or neither. If I understand you correctly, the skin makes it a bit more tart since you said your skinless sauce was too sweet? I’ve never tested the same batch of tomatoes with 2 sauce recipes. Must do.

    There’s something I like about leaving skins on otherwise I feel like I’m getting rid of too much of the tomato.

    Have you heard about the study done that found that most of the tomato’s flavor being in the gelatin around the seeds? Now I seed mine into a wire mesh sieve and swish it around vigorously with a wooden spoon to capture the gelatiny liquid, which I add to the sauce. Not sure if I can tell the difference.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

  19. melissa August 27, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Whole tomatoes will peel super easy if you blanch them in boiling water for a minute then throw them in a sinkful of ice water to cool. ;)

  20. Heather May 3, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    I love this recipe! I have made it several times and find that its easy and the best flavour! I have use Roma and other tomatoes and find that they are all good! My son in law planted several types of tomatoes last season, he found he had some that were not a nice texture and tasted different he was going to throw them away! I looked on line and found this recipe made it, my son in law loved the flavour and he now makes tomato sauce from this recipe!!! Thank you for such a wonderful and simple clean recipe!!!

  21. Lawyer Smith July 26, 2014 at 1:37 am #

    This is an outstanding “skin on” recipe if you want to do homemade sauce with fresh tomatoes … great for pasta, pizza, or to freeze. I generally followed the recipe except that I added diced sweet onions (which I had in my garden). I used fresh chopped basil (also from my garden). I also used a potato masher, instead of a food processor, to blend the ingredients. (I sautéed the diced onions and diced garlic cloves in a bit of olive oil before mixing in the tomatoes and chopped basil.) I let the whole thing simmer on stovetop at very low setting (1 to 2) for about 9 hours. My batch today was enough for a couple of small pizzas and two nice quart batches to freeze. The sauce is outstanding. I’m sure my garden fresh ingredients made a difference, but it would probably make nicely even with store-bought ingredients. Thank you for the recipe, my family really enjoyed the sauce.

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