Let’s talk about homemade tomato sauce. Somehow, in this world of amplified food awareness, it’s become this complicated, convoluted dish and it really doesn’t have to be.
I like to make this sauce in the fall when I have an abundance of tomatoes from my garden. Actually, I make tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes two ways. One is the uncooked tomato sauce version, which is easy, tasty and drool-worthy. Oh, and did I mention it’s a godsend on a hot summer night?
This second recipe is a cooked version, packed with garlic, onion and herbs and cooked for just about 3 hours or so, which I’ve found to be the sweet spot of melding and condensing flavors, while still letting that fresh tomato flavor shine through. This version I typically make in huge batches and freeze dinner-size portions of it, so that I can enjoy my garden tomatoes year-round.
If you really want to make this a meal to remember, make your own homemade pasta to serve it with.
But back to my original point: let’s talk about sauce, baby.
homemade tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium shallots, minced
- 1/4 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 5-6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 7 lbs. blanched, peeled and seeded tomatoes. with their juices. I don’t pre-chop mine, I just crush them as I add them to the saucepan.
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (you may want to add more but wait until the sauce is cooked and reduced before adding.
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano or 3 tablespoons fresh, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh, chopped
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add shallots, onions and garlic and cook until onion becomes translucent and soft about 5 minutes. Stir in crushed red pepper flakes and cook about 2 minutes more. Be careful not to burn the garlic, as it will become bitter if you do.
Add tomatoes, salt and herbs and stir well. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer only partially covered for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Ideally, the sauce should reduce by between 1/4 and 1/3. If you get to where there’s only an hour of cooking time left and don’t feel it’s reducing fast enough, remove the lid completely and make sure it remains at a healthy simmer. When cooked, remove bay leaf and discard.
Serve over fresh hot pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Simple tomato sauce, made with fresh tomatoes. Easy, right?
If you’re making this to freeze, be sure to let it cool, refrigerate overnight and then freeze.
I’ve been asked why I seed my tomatoes and I’ll tell you, I’ve made this sauce both ways; with seeded tomatoes and without. I find that removing the tomato seeds for this sauce is essential; the seeds tend to make the sauce a little bitter. Removing the seeds after blanching the tomatoes may take a little more time and effort but in the end, it’s worth it. I put my chinois to work for this job, but a fine mesh strainer works just as well. Here’s the cool chinois I was gifted from my parents:
It’s a sweet little old-fashioned kitchen tool that works like a charm. To use this, I let my blanched and peeled tomatoes cool and then put my chinois over a bowl. Holding a tomato over the chinois, I quickly run my thumb up under the seed pods and scrape them out into the chinois. Then, I put the seeded tomato into a bowl and repeat with the next tomato, continuing until all tomatoes are done. Using the wood pestle, I run it around the chinois to release anyleftover juice into the bowl. The juice gets added back to the tomatoes and the seeds get discarded. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to get every last seed – you just want to get rid of the bulk of them Anyway, back to the sauce…
Most of you know I love to give you variations on some of my dishes so here you go:
- Add meat if you really want to – just brown it, drain the grease and then start from the beginning of this recipe.
- Better yet, make my panko and feta meatballs.
- If you have to add a little sugar, go ahead and do so; some people like their sauce a little sweet and you should make this recipe your own.
- I don’t typically add black pepper to this when cooking it but love a bit of it freshly ground on top, right before serving.
- I get pretty generous with my fresh basil sometimes…the taste of it just reminds me of summer. The amount in the recipe above is conservative – feel free to add more if you want to.
- I love garlic, so I add quite a bit of it. Feel free to decrease the amount to your taste.
- Want to make fresh pasta sauce with canned tomatoes? Go right ahead! This recipe converts to four 28 ounce cans of tomatoes.
- What type of tomatoes to use for fresh sauce? I’ve used different varieties of tomatoes over the years and Roma style tomatoes still work best – they have the most meat and fewest seeds, along with a richer flavor than other types. The sauce in the photos you see above were not made with Romas and I assure you it was super delicious anyway.
Hopefully, my easy recipe inspires you to make some homemade fresh tomato sauce of your own.