let’s talk about sauce, baby

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.

I present to you homemade tomato sauce made with fresh garden tomatoes:lola-rugula-pasta-sauce-made-with-fresh-tomatoes-reciipe-3

Beautiful, right?

If you really want to make this a meal to remember, make your own homemade pasta to serve it with.

lola-rugula-pasta-sauce-made-with-fresh-tomatoes-reciipe

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
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

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.

Serve over fresh hot pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Simple tomato sauce, made with fresh tomatoes. Easy, right?

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 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:

lola-rugula-chinois-for-seeding-tomatoes

It’s a sweet little old-fashioned kitchen tool that works like a charm. Anyway, back to the sauce…

lola-rugula-pasta-sauce-made-with-fresh-tomatoes-reciipe-2

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 good-quality anchovies on hand, try smashing one or two of them up and adding it to this sauce. (omit the teaspoon of kosher salt if you do thiss and then add a little if needed)
  • 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.

Mangia!

7 thoughts on “let’s talk about sauce, baby

  1. Beautiful. I have mixed feelings about sauce from fresh tomatoes. Even the best, ripest garden-fresh tomatoes can have a tang to them, that even a pinch of sugar doesn’t remove. So I tend to put them in salads, salsas, and so forth. I now, after many years, can purchase high quality tomato products where I live and it’s one canned product that I’m not ashamed to say I love! And there’s no tartness!

    • Lesley at Lola Rugula says:

      Interesting! You must like canned tomatoes because they’re cooked longer – definitely a different sauce. This sauce is all about the summer garden, full of tomato flavor which yes, is a little tangy, and fresh herbs, shallots, and garlic. It’s meant to let the tomatoes shine through. The 3 hour cooking time is part of the key to this – I’ve played with a lot of time variations. I always love hearing from you, Mimi – Thank you!

      • I get the summer fresh aspect of your sauce for sure. But I think that tomatoes that go in to canned tomatoes must be ripe and sweet or the products would be inferior. But I do stick with the higher quality brands…

        • Lesley at Lola Rugula says:

          I think we just differ on our approach, Mimi. Any great tomato sauce has to start with tomatoes that are ripe otherwise the tartness you speak of is almost inherent. Sweetness is a sore spot with me because as a nation, we seem to be overly obsessed with adding sugar and sweetness to almost everything we eat, which is reflected in the majority of people being overweight and battling heart disease and diabetes. My goal here on my site is to use real, whole ingredients whenever possible.

          Canned tomatoes are just fresh tomatoes that have been processed; in other words: cooking them, adding salt and/or preservatives and cooking them again in the canning/sealing process. You can certainly do this at home with fresh tomatoes, just like any canned tomato manufacturer. I speak from experience here, as someone who works for a food manufacturer. I just prefer to grow the high-quality tomatoes and process them myself as opposed to buying the end product. I think we’re coming to the same end product but from a different point of view.

            • Lesley at Lola Rugula says:

              Agreed, but they’re still processed to remain shelf-stable. I’m sorry but I think you’re missing the point of garden fresh. I’ve used Pom and they’re wonderful but when I can make something that I’ve grown myself, there’s beauty in that.

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