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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Homemade Tomato Sauce

I have never much liked canned tomato sauce. It's aggressive - overly tart and one-dimensionally tomato. Homemade tomato sauce is a totally different flavor. It captures the sweet freshness of ripe tomatoes without being too sweet (like many a jarred spaghetti sauce). It is fresh tomato transformed into something that you can stow in your freezer. When you pull it out to use in the dead of winter, you will think of beautiful summer tomatoes.

I have made a number of fresh tomato sauce recipes from Marcella Hazan, the queen of Italian cooking. Nowadays, there are other Italian queens but Hazan is still tops in my book. At the release of her The Classic Italian Cook Book, it was said that she did for Italian food what Julia Child had done for French food. In 2010, it's hard to read it and think of it as revolutionary, but in the 1970's, when originally released, Italian food in the US did not include pesto, polenta, arugula or broccoli rabe. Not unless you happened to be part of an Italian-American family and lived in a major city like NY or Boston.

This recipe, which I made recently when Roma tomatoes were cheap and field ripened, is great for freezing. I used it in a baked penne dish and it was so much better than anything that came out of a jar or a can.

Fresh Tomato Sauce adapted from Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cook Book
(makes 6 servings, about 3 cups)
This recipe can be doubled or tripled and the sauce freezes very well.

2 pounds fresh ripe Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion, about 1/2 a medium onion
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot, about 1/2 a medium carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery, about 2 stalks
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

1. Cook tomatoes in a covered 2 quart saucepan at a steady simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Uncover and reduce heat to hold a gentle simmer. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.
3. Run the tomatoes through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds.
4. Rinse and dry the saucepan. Add the olive oil and lightly saute the onions over medium heat. The onions should be translucent but not browned.
5. Add the carrot and celery and saute for another minute.
6. Add the pureed tomatoes, salt and sugar. Cook at a gentle simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
7. Sauce can be used for pasta immediately, or frozen in 1 or 2 cup containers for a touch of summer in the middle of winter.

Note: If you don't have a food mill, you can skin and seed the tomatoes before cooking. You'll lose some of the flavor but it will still be far superior to canned sauce.

Link to PDF of Fresh Tomato Sauce