Back in February, I mentioned how many tomatoes were growing packed into our garden bed like so many Japanese bullet train passengers. As a near-native desert dweller, I’m just impressed when anything edible grows out of the ground, but tomatoes are especially great to have handy, as they’re usable in so many dishes. For months they served us well in salads, tarts, pizzas, and sandwiches, but the day finally came when my husband said we needed to harvest the whole bed. (I wouldn’t know why. He’s the gardener. Probably it had something to do with the face-melting heat outside.) So out he went and returned with a heaping colander of ‘maters of all different shapes, sizes, and hues.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from gardening–or, more accurately, being the beneficiary of my husband’s gardening–it’s that the work comes both before and after the harvest. Tomatoes picked singly off the vine are a delightful convenience. Three hundred tomatoes sitting on your counter feel like a ticking time bomb of spoilage. Still, the work both before and after your produce is well worth it–not necessarily because it’s cheaper or easier than buying from the store, but because it’s a reconnection to the Earth, a reminder that all food comes at a cost of labor and love. And because food made from fresh fruits and vegetables is delicious!
With dozens of (mostly tiny) tomatoes now in my kitchen, silently begging the question “What are you going to do with us?” I knew I had to come up with something. Having never made my own from-scratch tomato pasta sauce, that seemed like an attractive option–made all the more attractive by the fact that I already had all the ingredients necessary! And I must say, it turned out INCREDIBLE. The flavor was so much richer and deeper than anything I’ve ever had out of a store-bought jar, probably due to the red wine, the fresh herbs, and of course, the garden-fresh tomatoes. My husband ate it on tortilla chips so he could have it as a snack.
So if you, too, have a glut of tomatoes from your garden or just want to try a better-than-store-bought taste experience, here’s a how-to for making your very own sauce for spaghetti, tortellini, meatballs, or any other creative choices (like tortilla chips).
Homemade Tomato Sauce
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)
5 lbs. fresh tomatoes (10 large, 40 plum, or 100ish cherry tomatoes)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped fresh herbs (a mix of rosemary, basil, and thyme is ideal)
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 c. red wine
1 bay leaf
2 stalks celery
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1. Boil and peel tomatoes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have ready a large bowl of ice water. If using large or plum tomatoes, use a sharp knife to score the top or bottom of each with a small “X” to make peeling easier. Place tomatoes into boiling water until skins start to peel. Depending on your tomatoes’ ripeness, this may take as little as 1 minute or as much as 3-4 minutes.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the prepared bowl of ice water.
The skins will begin to loosen and look like little Pacmans:
Let tomatoes rest until cool enough to peel. Once they are cool to the touch, peel and set aside. (The skins should slip off easily.)
Let’s pause for a moment to honor the many tomatoes who gave their skins for this sauce.
2. Puree peeled tomatoes in a food processor or blender.
3. Make the rest of the sauce:
Rinse the pot you used to boil the tomatoes. Heat oil and butter over medium heat in this pot and cook onion, carrots, and garlic until onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add pureed tomatoes, fresh herbs, Italian seasoning, and wine. Place bay leaf and whole celery sticks into the pot.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Stir in tomato paste and simmer another 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and celery sticks. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.