Good tomato sauce can make an Italian meal into an Italian feast! While some grocery store’s carry okay brands, real tomato sauce, the stuff literally boiled down from tomatoes, is a whole different ball-game. Unfortunately, I cannot share my personal recipe (family secret) but I can share with you how to make tomatoes into a beautiful sauce you can work with and make your own…
To begin you need tomatoes, a lot of them. For my batch I bought a 30lbs box of heirloom tomatoes directly from a farmer. You can usually get a great deal on a box of tomatoes if you choose the ones that aren’t freshly picked. Like jams and jellies, tomatoes with a little bit of age give the best results.
You are also going to need time. It takes a couple hours to prep the tomato sauce if you are working alone and after the prepping, you will also need time to let the sauce cook down. This process can take all day, depending on how you like your sauce. The best way to make the sauce is to start it in the morning
Before you begin to cook the tomatoes, you need to get everything set in position. You will not have much time in between blanching, prepping, and stirring sauce to look for that spatula you placed by the microwave and forgot about.
You will need the following:
Herbs & spices
Two big pots (one for cooking, one for blanching)
Large mixing bowl for blanching
Small mixing bowl for catching seeds and juice
Trash can or compost container (near your work station)
What I generally do is put the herbs & spices in one of the big pots before I put in the tomatoes. I’ve found that by putting the herbs & spices in while the sauce is cooking down all day makes the apartment smell amazing and gives the sauce really great flavor.
Next you need to blanch the tomatoes. For anyone who hasn’t blanched food before it can be a bit tricky the first time. You need to take your other big pot and fill it about halfway with water and bring it to a boil. While that is going on take your large mixing bowl and fill it with water and ice. Once the big pot of water is boiling, take the tomatoes and drop them in the water.
Let the tomatoes sit in the water for anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Next, take your ladle and scoop the tomatoes out of the water and submerge them in the ice bath.
Once you have the tomatoes in the ice bath, take a tomato out and place it on the cutting board (Note: if the tomato is still hot to the touch, it is not submerged enough, pick a different one.) At this point I usually cut the top of the tomato (where the stem was) off and start to peel away the skin of the tomato but there is really no wrong way to do it. Blanching your tomatoes makes this step very easy. Throw the skin away in your trash can or compost it.
Next remove as much of the seeds and juice from inside the tomato as you can. I generally use the small mixing bowl for this. As you can see with all of these tomatoes, you can get a lot of juice and seeds.
Then cut any hard areas of the tomato off and throw the rest of the tomato in a colander. The more juice that comes off of the fruit, the better.
Then take the fruit from the colander and throw it in the pot with your herbs & spices. This might look odd because the tomato is no longer its juicy-looking self, but there is still a lot of water in the fruit and it will start to show once the temperature goes on. Repeat the process until all of the tomatoes are in the pot with the herbs & spices.
Once the pot is full, I generally put the temperature on medium low to get the juices going. The longer the pot is cooking, the less chunky the sauce will get. If the sauce starts to get thick, add a cup or two of water and mix it. If it is still way too thick I usually use a potato masher to break up the chunks. Stir the sauce occasionally, but let it cook until it looks good to you. I usually make this sauce in big batches and can it so I can give it to friends or family, but it can definitely be done on a larger or smaller scale.
In addition, making your own sauce is a lot cheaper. In my area, the price of a good sauce was $6.50 for about 15 ounces of sauce. For this sauce-making, I put my sauce in pint jars to see the difference in price. The cost of the pint jars was $7.00, the tomatoes were $5.00, and because I already had the herbs & spices, I’ll say the herbs & spices were another $1. I made twelve pint jars of sauce for this batch. So my batches of sauce cost me about 92 cents per jar rather than $6.50 per jar. That is quite a difference in price!