For the first time in known memory (or more precisely since I moved from NJ), I grew enough plum tomatoes to make sauce. I have had zero success with Italian plum tomatoes until this year. This year was great for tomatoes but not much of anything else. The deer ate all the leaves off my pole bean plants. My potatoes got attacked by fungus? bugs? Not exactly sure but all the potatoes I've picked so far have black streaks through them. Every one of my leeks bloomed! What's up with that? They are biennials. I'm perplexed. And, without any leeks this year. At least the tomatoes - plum, slicing, and cherry - all did well. As we say in baseball, "there's always next year."
Homemade tomato sauce, even a sauce simmered for an hour, tastes fresher than canned sauce. I think it has to do with the way food processors have to manipulate the acid to assure safe canning. I know this is true for home canning too. Because I freeze my sauce, I don't have to worry about getting the sauce acidic enough for safe canning and it retains that fresh tomato flavor.
This recipe is proportionally Lidia Bastianich's but I made some changes to the method. I'm just not into peeling and coring tomatoes. I use a food mill to get rid of the skins and seeds after cooking. Seems to work fine to me! I'm a big fan of my food mill.
|My trusty food mill. It has 3 different sized plates. Pictured is the smallest sized one, the one I use for tomato sauce. It comes apart so it's easy to clean.|
(makes about 3 quarts)
8 lbs of ripe plum tomatoes, washed and cut into chunks
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
1 whole bulb garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed (about ⅓ cup)
3-4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 Tablespoons + 2 cups water
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 whole bunch of fresh basil
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until golden yellow. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add 2 Tablespoons of water and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes, and another teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine. Add 2 cups of water and bunch of basil (stems and all). Push the basil down into the tomatoes to submerge. Increase heat to medium-high and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. After 30 minutes, the tomatoes should no longer be chunky and they will have released most of their juice. Remove the cover and increase the heat to medium. Cook for another 30 minutes. Remove the basil stems. Run the sauce through a food mill fitted with the plate with the smallest holes. Discard all the seeds, skins, and any other chunky bits. If the sauce seems watery, you can cook it some more to thicken it up after you run it through the food mill. After you have cooked it to the desired consistency, taste sauce for salt; add 1 to 2 additional teaspoons of salt.
Divide sauce into freezer containers. Sauce can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months - a little bit of summer sunshine in the middle of winter!
Recipe adapted from Lidia's Family Table by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.