I know I said I would blog about the farmer’s market in more detail now, but… I lied. It was wonderful and I promise to write about it later! I will say though that among the many things for sale, pasta was one of the most prevalent, so Kevin and I picked up some homemade, fresh tortellini. At the market though, I realized that after shopping in several grocery stores, I had not seen anything recognizable as tomato/pasta sauce. Lots of things called “tomato pulp,” but not sauce. Solution = make my own!
Improvising from what I assumed would be in pasta sauce, I bought a kilo of tomatoes (8 tomatoes = $1.50!), onion, garlic, oregano, and black pepper. When I got home, I did my research on tomato sauce and it turns out there are a zillion ways to make it and a zillion variable ingredients. I took what I thought were the best pieces of all of them and voila! …3 hours later, we have sauce! (read: don’t start this 15 minutes before you want to eat) Below is the way I did it, which turned out really tasty, although google will produce any number of options for you. If you have any suggestions on how this might be improved, please let me know!
Some notes from my experience: This reduces a LOT, so use more tomatoes than you think you need. Not only do you remove a lot of the seeds and water from the tomatoes before simmering them, you simmer the rest of the water out over a couple of hours. Also, one of the blogs I read suggested you use a carrot to add a little sweetness to the sauce without using any sugar, which was great advice – you could probably use 2. The sauce turns out with a perfect sweetness.
Basic Tomato Pasta Sauce – makes about 6 servings
4.5-5 lbs of tomatoes (16-18 average-sized tomatoes)
1 onion, half diced, half halved
1 carrot, peeled, chopped in ¾ inch slices
3-5 cloves of garlic (to taste), peeled, 2-3 cloves diced, 1-2 cloves whole
1-2 teaspoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Step 1: Prepare by boiling a pot of water and making an ice bath in a large bowl. Place each tomato (3-4 at a time) in the boiling water for a minute – the longer they boil, the easier they are to peel, but you don’t want them to be mush yet. The peel will often crack, making your job easier in a minute 🙂
Step 2: Remove tomatoes with tongs into ice bath for a minute or two, until they are cool enough to handle.
Step 3: Peel each tomato and cut in half, width-wise.
Step 4: Dig seeds and watery middle out of each half (into your garbage disposal or an empty bowl). Squeeze out any excess moisture. Cut off hard fibrous parts (where the tomato was connected to the stem). Place tomato meat in a strainer to drain.
Step 5: In a medium sized saucepan, heat olive oil to medium-high and add garlic, onion, and carrot. Saute for a few minutes and then remove whole garlic cloves (you want the flavor, but not overwhelming).
Step 6: Turn heat down to low and add tomato meat, oregano, and pepper to the pot. Add a little water if things start to scorch.
Step 7: Cover and simmer. Simmer some more. Stir every half hour, or so. Simmer until everything in your home smells amazing. While you’re waiting, smell your hands – they are perfumed with pure tomato wonder. After about 2 hours, the flavors will have melded and the tomatoes reduced – others tell me you can let it go for longer if you want the tomatoes to caramelize a little. At about this point, with tongs, fish out the unchopped onion halves and the chunks of carrot. Add salt as desired.
Step 8: Break up any remaining tomato chunks. If you’re okay with a chunkier sauce (or, like me, you don’t have a blender), whisk the sauce for a few minutes and then you’re finished. If you want a smoother sauce, put the simmered sauce in a blender for a few seconds.
Step 9: Serve!
Husband verdict: “it smells really good… and it tastes good, too.” From the man who won’t eat tomatoes, I’ll take it 🙂
Just as I was feeling really bad for millions of overworked Italian mothers spending hours on their tomato sauces, I realized that you need one of two things for this to take a more reasonable amount of time: an army of Italian children to help you peel and gut tomatoes OR canned tomatoes. How could I forget about canned tomatoes? The sauce I made tasted incredibly fresh and bright, but let’s be real, it took forever. Using canned tomatoes would cut out a good hour of cooking time and a lot of the labor. When I get around to trying it myself, I’ll let you know how it goes. Until then, adios!