This time of year, as soon as the temperatures start to drop, and the leaves start to fall, I begin thinking about all the things I can make in a large pot. Soups, stews, sauces, etc. – I love it all. Seeing as the tomatoes I planted in my garden this year have been getting eaten by an unknown little critter and I didn’t get nearly the amount of tomatoes I thought I would, I bought an 8-quart crate of plum tomatoes from the farmers market this past weekend. I decided I would make tomato sauce and soup.
Though this seems like a complicated and time-consuming recipe, it really isn’t. It is somehow very therapeutic and calming to peel and squeeze all the tomatoes one at a time and to have a big pot of sauce, made entirely from fresh ingredients. The smell of this sauce simmering is incredible and I really can’t see myself ever buying jarred sauce again.
If you have a food mill you can run your tomatoes through them on a fine setting and it will remove both the seeds and the skin. Then you can skip the first two steps.
Obviously, everyone has their preferences on their tomato sauce, sweet, spicy, chunky, smooth, etc. – this recipe is very versatile so play around.
Fresh Chunky Tomato Sauce
makes about 4 cups sauce
4 quarts plum tomatoes (or any variety of tomato you prefer)
1/4 cup olive oil Small onion 3 small cloves of garlic 1 stalk of celery
2 bay leaves
red pepper flakes
fresh basil 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
glug of red wine Slivers of fresh basil, to finish
Bring a pot of water to boil. Cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanche the tomatoes in the boiling water for approximately 30 seconds, and shock in an ice water bath. Peeling the tomatoes will now be very easy. If any of them give you trouble, toss it back in the boiling water for another 10 seconds until the skin loosens up. Discard the skins.
If using plum tomatoes, halve each lengthwise. If using beefsteak or another round variety, quarter them. Squeeze the seeds out over a strainer over a bowl and reserve the juices. (Discard the seeds.) Either coarsely chop the tomatoes or use a potato masher to do so in your pot, as they cook.
Prepare your vegetables by finely chopping the onion, celery and garlic. Heat your olive oil in a large pot over medium. Cook the onion, celery and garlic until they just start to take on a little color, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, fresh thyme, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes and bay leaves, bring to a simmer, lowering the heat to medium-low to keep it at a gentle simmer. I also added a glug or two of some red wine that I had open. At this point, if you haven’t chopped your tomatoes yet, use a potato masher to break them up as you cook them. Simmer your sauce, stirring occasionally. Allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes, longer if you have it.
If your sauce is thicker than you would like, you can add back the reserved tomato juice as need. If your sauce is too lumpy for your taste, use an immersion blender to break it down to your desired texture. I prefer a chunky, almost marinara type sauce, myself. Season with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt to taste. Scatter fresh basil over the pot before serving. Taste again.