I spent a glorious morning at our local farmers’ market last weekend, buying everything in sight, carrots, potatoes, garlic, corn, squash, beets. Everything looked gorgeous, freshly-picked and full of life. I especially couldn’t resist the tomatoes, plump, juicy, and vibrant red, cherry tomatoes in various shades and sizes, gnarly striped heirloom tomatoes, ordinary slicing tomatoes, and baskets of plum tomatoes for making sauce. Which is what we are doing today.
It will be a wonderful thing, three to four months from now, to dig into your freezer and pull out a container of home-made tomato sauce. Think of it a building block to great food, and imagine how good it will taste with meatballs, or in a spaghetti sauce, or a soup. You will thank yourself for the effort you make now, and with this recipe, from Sam Sifton at Cooking with the New York Times, it is not much effort at all.
To make this sauce, five pounds of tomatoes are cut in half horizontally, the seeds are removed (as best you can), and the cut side of the tomato is pressed through the large holes of a box grater. This is a slightly messy job, but once it’s finished the rest is quick and easy. The recipe estimates you will have about 4 cups of grated tomato pulp; I had six cups, so added a bit more of the rest of the ingredients to keep the flavours balanced.
And that’s about it. A short simmer on the stove and voilà, fresh, bright tomato sauce. It will keep for about five days in the refrigerator, and for months in the freezer, properly stored in plastic freezer bags or air-tight containers. This is where having a stand-alone freezer comes in handy.
There are countless recipes in the world for tomato sauce but I’m liking this one right now because it contains just a whiff of garlic, a splash of olive oil, and a bright green sprig of basil for the artist in all of us.
- 5 pounds tomatoes
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 garlic clove, halved
- 1 basil sprig
- 1 bay leaf
- Cut tomatoes in half horizontally. Squeeze out the seeds and discard, if you wish. Press the cut side of the tomatoes against the large holes of a box grater and grate tomato flesh into a bowl. Discard skins. You should have about 4 cups.
- Put tomato pulp in a low wide saucepan over high heat. Add salt, olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, basil and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a brisk simmer.
- Reduce the sauce by almost half, stirring occasionally, to produce about 2½ cups medium-thick sauce, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust salt. It will keep up to 5 days in the refrigerator or may be frozen.