Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Making Tomato Sauce

Last weekend I was at my friend Monica's house, and we had such a lovely visit and she taught me to applique. It was so fun! Plus, she sent me home with a mini peach pie (Tommy loves pie!) and plums from her backyard tree **, and a dozen beautiful tomatoes and two gorgeous green peppers. Between her and my mom, I feel so lucky!

** What is up with the plums? Two weeks ago my friend and I were at her mom's house and she has this incredibly prolific plum tree in her backyard. She sent me out with a bag for harvesting and the instructions to "help yourself, take them all!". Will do. But when I got out back, I thought, "Oh, too bad, none of them are ripe yet." Turns out, no, they are supposed to be yellow. I eat one and it's so juicy, so sweet, so incredibly yummy! I fill my bag and promise to be back for more. We ate them all, so I was very happy when Monica replenished my stock. Her plums are the expected dark purple, but they are so small. Seriously tiny. Like, 10 in a handful! And, again, though they look like they will be sour, they are incredibly juicy, sweet, and such a bite-sized goodness. Who knew?

As much as I love tomatoes there is no way I could eat all these tomatoes this week. So I took 8 or 9 of them and made tomato sauce. Pippa had asked what recipe I use, and this is generally it.

I had tomato overload last season and I called my mom to ask her how to make tomato sauce that I could freeze. Her answer involved lots of colorful cooking phrases like "throw in some" and "you'll know you're done when it tastes good". This. This is what you get when you ask an Italian for spaghetti sauce. So, this recipe is how I do it, but it really does depend on how you like it. The way I figured out how much of the spices to add was to put in half of what I thought it would need, simmer for 10 minutes, taste, and start adding more. So this is where I landed, but don't worry if you do it different because honestly, there's no wrong way.

BTW, Every person who comes into my house asks me about this faucet over my stove. "Oh! You have a pot filler! Do you use it?" Every person. Exactly this question. I will tell you now, the answer is, "Yes, I use it. Because it's there." Do I need it? No. But it's there, so I use it, and yes, I like it, but I guess if it wasn't there I would not once ever think, "Man, if only I had a pot filler!" Having to schlep my pots to the kitchen sink never stopped me from boiling water.

Mom's Tomato Sauce

8 or 9 medium tomatoes will make about a quart of tomato sauce. Boil the tomatoes until they split and the skin starts to peel off (5 - 10 minutes). I take them out of the water and let them get cool enough to handle.

Peel off the skin and cut out the stem/core from your tomatoes (Honestly, I start the recipe here but you could do this whole thing with canned tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes). Put at least half of the tomatoes into a food processor and puree them. Chop up the rest into big chunks. Or, if they're sort of 'loose' from boiling, don't sweat it; just leave them alone.

Dice: 2 cloves of garlic, a green pepper, and 1/2 an onion (red or yellow, whatever you have) and cook all that with your seasonings until it's tender (8 or 10 mins.). I use the following for seasonings: a few sprigs fresh oregano, a sprig of fresh rosemary, both chopped finely, 1/8 tsp black pepper, and I add a little bit of cumin. If cumin sounds weird, just leave it out. I like it. Also, if you don't have fresh herbs, you can use dried, but when I do that I have to use google to find out conversions.

When it's all cooked up, combine the pureed tomatoes, the chopped tomatoes, and the veggies you just cooked, into a pot. Add at least 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some basil leaves. For one jar of sauce, I use a couple of tablespoons of torn basil leaves.

Let simmer for 30 - 60 minutes (when it's the consistency you like, it's done).

Bob's your uncle! When I'm ready to eat the sauce, I heat it over low heat with a splash of balsamic vinegar. It's now ready for you to add sweet sausage or meatballs, but it's so tasty vegetarian style you might not even want to!


  1. To this day I have such a strong and fond memory of the time you came down to L.A. to visit me and we drove out to see your Cousin..or Aunt..? The one who gave me the kitten we so thoughtfully named Kitty. When we got to her house she had a gazillion fresh tomatoes and was going to make sauce with some of them, and stew and jar the rest. I had never seen this done. I mean..homemade sauce? Seriously?? I don't think I actually bought sauce for years after that. I loved making it homemade. I always wondered about her recipe though. I just sort of made something up on my own. Is this recipe above sort of the same as what she did??? I can't wait to try it!! I haven't made homemade sauce since the mid 90's. Thanks so much for sharing :)

  2. Hi Tra! Yes, that was actually my mom's cousin, Jude. Basically, those people NEVER write down ANYTHING, so this is just my interpretation of what they just sort of "do". It freezes well too, so if you don't want to go through all the trouble of canning (which frankly, I usually don't care to, and besides we eat it pretty quickly!) you can just get 4 or 5 pounds of tomatoes and make several batches all at the same time. Last fall, I used jars but put them straight away into the chest freezer and it worked awesome. I popped them from the freezer to the refer when I needed more and we used it for pizzas and pasta and it was YUMMY! Let me know how it goes, and if you make any changes, because I still like to learn. xoxo