Sunday, January 29, 2012

Easy Tomato Sauce

Time: 35-90 min. total - greatly dependent on quantity
(15-30 min. prep/ 20-60 min cook)

Cooking tomatoes and fresh herbs for the sauce

Easy Tomato Sauce

Ingredients
Lots and lots of ripe tomatoes, chopped coarsely
sea salt to taste
fresh herbs (I used a handful of italian or greek oregano plus a little marjoram and a sprig of sage, this time. Basil is good too.)

Directions
1. Put the chopped tomatoes and sea salt into a pot and cook at a simmer or low boil. I usually use a low boil.

2. Keep cooking until the skins begin to peel away from the tomatoes a little. The tomatoes will look mushy at this point. Not a big deal if you cook it a bit too long, though. This usually takes me about, oh, 15-25 minutes, maybe? I don't keep track really well, honestly.

3. Turn off the heat and put the tomatoes into a blender to purée them until smooth. Put them back into the pot and continue to simmer. Too high a heat will burn the tomato sauce, but too low and it takes WAY too long for it to thicken up. Kind of a judgement call on the temp, here.

4. Add chopped, fresh herbs to taste. Basil and oregano go well, usually, for a first try. Continue to simmer until the sauce reaches desired thickness and sweetness. The longer it boils, the sweeter it gets. I understand if you want tomato paste, just keep boiling until it's extra-thick (haven't tried that yet, though).

Feeds: How much you make is affected by how many tomatoes you use, obviously. About 8 vine ripened tomatoes plus 3-4 larger heirloom tomatoes made 3-4 pints of sauce by the time it boiled down to the thickness I wanted.

Shauna's Notes:
Inspired by: My friend Nicole, who took pity on my sad lack of cooking skills and showed me how to make a quick, GF tomato sauce.

What worked and didn't work: It's a nice sauce as long as you have enough time to cook it. If you cook it for too short a time, the tomato flavor is less sweet and more of that tart, raw-ish tomato taste, which my son hates. Also, as the cooking time affects the thickness, this can take a while to get it as thick as you may desire. So far, haven't had a bad herb combination, but more is almost always better. My sauce does contain seeds as I don't leave those out.

What would improve it: This is a really basic sauce, which I typically spruce up when I actually use it in a recipe. For the most basic sauce, I don't even add the herbs. I like to make a big batch like this because then I can add whatever type of flavor-style I want, like for Italian dishes or Mexican ones.

Herb combinations:

  1. Marjoram, winter savory, and greek oregano
  2. Marjoram, winter savory, and rosemary
  3.  For Italian spaghetti-style sauce, I usually add chopped zucchini, bell peppers, hot peppers, garlic, sometimes chopped kale or swiss chard, and meat. I've also used chopped carrots, as well.
  4.  For Mexican sauces, I often add onion, garlic, mexican sage, greek oregano. I'll frequently add chopped cilantro and sliced avocado on top, after it's done cooking.


NOTES:
3/7/13 - Since first making this, I have had the best success using suggestions from some lovely folks at my farmer's market. Now, instead of regular ripe tomatoes, I get some over-ripe and some under-ripe tomatoes - heirloom ones worked awesome, but mixing them with regular tomatoes is probably more affordable. Then, I cooked them until the tomatoes were mush, then blended them up and then kept cooking.  This made a much sweeter tomatoes sauce, both the over-ripe tomatoes and the longer cooking time. Really quite lovely.

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