Since I have already made a good chunk of Italy roll its eyes with my apparent American ignorance by continually requesting a dish that doesn’t exist, I’m going to ask that you all pause for a moment and listen for the collective thump occuring as I announce, “I’m going to make that dish at home.”
That’s the sound of those same Italians banging their foreheads against the nearest wall.
Fine. I’ve changed my mind. To prevent any further bruising of all those lovely foreheads, I will simply tell you what I plan to do with the windfall of tomatoes pouring out of my garden. Even the deer are staggering cross-eyed back into the forest, unable to make a dent in the mother lode, warning others that they think it’s some sort of trap.
We’re making Tomato Sauce.
I decided the cut-off number for pounds of tomatoes in my batch would be 19, because, after hours and hours of work, I began to grow delusional. I’m going to be dreaming of nothing but red fruit for the next week. Therefore, I’ve paired down the recipe to something a little more home manageable.
Some people (including that vast chunk of Italians) are VERY picky about the proper way to make fresh tomato sauce. It’s true—you can taste the difference between something thrown together (and I’m in favor of doing this when in a hurry) and something done with a little more flair and understanding of technique.
Two links you might find interesting for further reading are here and here. I doubt I found one web site or cook book or chef who agreed with another, and because of that, there’s a lot to sift through when choosing your method.
The one thing most recipes encouraged was the proper order of cooking your ingredients. You’ll find more on that in the links above. Suffice it to say, flavors need to develop, and they all have different peak times for arriving there.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
Yield: Around 8 cups of sauce
8 pounds tomatoes
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
3 medium onions
6 cloves of garlic
1/3 pound carrots
1/3 pound of celery
¼ cup each of fresh oregano, thyme & parsley
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. pepper
1-2 Tblsp. tomato paste
Peel the tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cut an X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanche the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 seconds, then shock in an ice water bath. The tomato skins should be super easy to pull off the fruit. If not, plop them back in the boiling water for another 10 seconds and give it another go.
Discard the skins (or tune in next week to see what I’ve done with mine).
De-seeding the tommies: Slice up the tomatoes so you can access the pockets of liquid and seeds, then scoop out those sections over a strainer in a bowl. You’ll want to keep all these bits for even more tomato goodness. (Tune in next week and I’ll give you an idea or two.) Now coarsely chop up the de-seeded tomatoes and put aside in a bowl.
Prep the veg: Uniformly chop your onions, carrots, celery and garlic. It’s your mirepoix.
Cookin’: Heat olive oil in a large pot over a medium flame. Sauté the onions until they begin to grow translucent, about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for another five, and finally, add your carrots and celery to cook for a further ten minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Finally, add your seasonings and paste. Cook until the flavors begin to meld–somewhere between one to two hours.
Now is the time you’ll want to adjust your spices. More salt? More sugar? A little Aleppo pepper for a kick?
Some people add wine at the beginning of the simmering, and the general rule of thumb is to use the same wine (a splash or two of either red or white) that you’ll be serving to accompany the meal.
In fact, why not make sure you’ve got the correct wine and pour yourself a glass while cooking?
Buona fortuna e tanta felicità!
PS If you’re searching for seeds (from arugula to zucchini and everything in between), I’m recommending a company that not only has a worthy mission creed but a wonderful moral code. Give The Mauro Seed Company a looksee.
Their motto? Grow One, Give One. I’m impressed. Maybe you will be too.