Tomatoes, in comparison to a month ago, are shockingly cheap at the moment, especially the ones that called “seconds, rejects, and unloved” (all names I have seen them labeled with on cardboard signs at the farmer’s market). While those tomatoes may not be lookers, they still taste absurdly delicious especially when broken down and turned into a tomato sauce that elevates boring spaghetti. I’ve been stocking up on these rejects, turning them into sauce, and storing them in the freezer so when the depths of winter finally does arrive, I am armed with the taste of summer to get me through. This is a fun and easy weekend project, the kind of thing that takes no time, but results in a product that is leagues better than anything you will ever buy in the store. It’s also immensely satisfying to turn an ugly looking tomato into a beautiful homemade sauce.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
I will be the first to tell you that I was supremely lazy and I did not seed my tomatoes, mostly because the tomatoes I was using really didn’t have many seeds. If yours are like that, (lucky you) then please skip the seeding step, but it takes no time at all to seed them if you choose to.
Makes about 4 cups
4 pounds of tomatoes – heirloom, roma, beefsteak, really anything works here
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Slivers of basil to finish
Bring a pot of water to boil. Cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanche the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 seconds, then either rinse under cold water or shock in an ice water bath. Peel the tomatoes! If you can’t get the skin off, toss it back in the boiling water for another 10 seconds until the skin loosens up. Compost or discard the skins.
Quarter your tomatoes. Place a strainer over a bowl, and squeeze the seeds out of the tomatoes. Coarsely chop the de-seeded tomatoes and set aside. Mince your garlic.
Heat your olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil and cook until the garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add your chopped tomatoes and the tomato juice you collected under the strainer to the pot, and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low to keep it at a gentle simmer. Use a potato-masher to break up the tomatoes as they cook. Simmer your sauce, stirring occasionally for about 35 – 45 minutes until the sauce has concentrated and developed a caramelized flavor.
Taste and season with salt. Scatter fresh basil over the sauce before serving (if freezing you may want to omit the basil).