In Season: Fresh Tomato Sauce

21 Jan

Makes from 4 to 6 cups of sauce, depending on the tomato variety

  • 5 lbs (2,25 kg) fresh tomatoes (Roma, San Marzano or any other variety)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To serve

  • About ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, lightly packed

Peel the tomatoes: Bring a big pot of water to a vigorous boil. Slice a shallow “X” on the bottom of each tomato. Plunge them in the boiling water until you see their skin roll back, 10 to 15 seconds. Fish them out and let them cool for a couple of minutes before removing their skins. Do this step in 2 or 3 batches to make sure there’s just one layer of tomatoes in your pot at a time.

Prepare the tomatoes: One the tomatoes are peeled, chop them roughly, or very finely, depending on how you like your sauce. Keep everything in a bowl: the flesh, the seeds and the juice.

Cook your base: Heat the olive oil in a big pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until wilted and translucent (don’t let it brown!), about 5 minutes. Pour the white wine into the pot and scrape the flavorful bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Let the wine evaporate (about 3 minutes more).

Simmer your sauce: Add the chopped tomatoes as well as the oregano, ½ teaspoon sea salt and freshly ground pepper to the pot. Raise the heat to medium-high to bring the sauce to a boil then turn the heat to low again to let it simmer, uncovered. Stir once in a while.

Your cooking time will vary from 20 to 45 minutes depending on the kind of tomatoes you used (less time for Italian varieties; more time for regular garden tomatoes). You want your final sauce to be thick, not watery. A trick is to look at your sauce before stirring it when it has simmered for a few minutes. At first, you’ll see a thick layer of watery juices rise to the surface. As your sauce cooks, you’ll see less and less of that juice rising. The sauce is ready when it’s topped with just a thin layer of juice and you see tomato chunks surfacing here and there.

When your sauce has thickened, turn the heat off and taste it. You’ll need to add ½ to 1 teaspoon more sea salt. Add the chopped basil if you’re ready to enjoy your sauce right away. Otherwise, let your sauce cool and freeze it for a later feast.




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