Tuesday, September 9, 2014

fresh tomato sauce (take 2)

Last week I purchased a box of tomatoes weighing close to 30 pounds.

Why you may ask, would a girl who lives with only one other boy decide to purchase 30 pounds of roma tomatoes?  I'll tell you why, it's because the box cost $15.  FIFTEEN DOLLARS.  At a price like that, they are practically giving away the tomatoes and if my father taught me anything it's that you never ignore a good deal (especially when it's a good food deal).  

On the long walk back to my apartment (and on this walk I managed to spill the box of tomatoes but we don't really have to talk about that), my arms began to quiver and reality began to set in.  What does one actually do with 30 pounds of tomatoes?

The answer lies in tomato sauce. So much tomato sauce.  Enough tomato sauce to last us though the winter.

I made tomato sauce this time last year and it was good (and far easier then this version) but it lacked the perfect stick to the pasta consistency.  So this year I set out to tackle tomato sauce again and what I discovered was the perfect sauce does exist it just takes a lot of work.

I don't need to tell you that making your own tomato paste is annoyingly time consuming.  I don't need to tell you that peeling and seeding 25 pounds of tomatoes will make you want to scream.  I don't need to tell you that deciding to make tomato sauce on the hottest and most humid day of the summer is a bad idea. But I do need to tell you that this sauce is dreamy.  The work is totally worth it.

Fresh Tomato Sauce (Take 2)
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

10 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, preferably mixed varieties (such as Romas, Amish Pastes, and San Marzanos), plus 15 pounds ripe mixed tomatoes, mostly plums with a small portion of other tomatoes (such as beefsteaks)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (see note above)
2 large sprigs fresh basil
Kosher salt

Peel the tomatoes: Bring a large Dutch oven or stock pot of water to a boil over high heat. Fill a mixing bowl with ice and water and set this next to the stove. Core out the stems from the tomatoes and slice a shallow "X" in the bottom of each fruit. Working in batches, drop several tomatoes into the boiling water. Cook until you see the skin starting to wrinkle and split, 45 to 60 seconds, then lift the tomatoes out with the slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water. Continue with the rest of the tomatoes, transferring the cooled tomatoes from the ice water to another mixing bowl as they cool. When finished, use your hands or a paring knife to strip the skins from the tomatoes. Discard the water used to boil the tomatoes.  Halve tomatoes, remove their seeds, and cut into chunks. 

In a large stockpot, heat the 10 pounds of the peeled plum tomatoes, covered, over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes dump their liquid. Bring to a boil, covered and stirring occasionally, and then cook until tomatoes are softened, about 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 275°F and grease several rimmed baking sheets and baking dishes with oil.

Pour plum tomato mixture into a food processor or Vitamix and blend until smooth. Pour plum-tomato purée into rimmed baking sheets and/or baking dishes, being careful not to overfill them.

Carefully transfer baking sheets and dishes to oven and bake, checking every 15 minutes and stirring once purée begins to thicken, until a thick, spreadable tomato paste forms, at least 2 hours.

Meanwhile, fill the same large stockpot with remaining 15 pounds of peeled mixed tomatoes and cook, covered, over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes dump their liquid. Bring to a boil, covered and stirring occasionally, and then cook until tomatoes are softened, about 15 minutes. (Work in batches if your pot can't hold all 15 pounds at once.)

Using a food processor or Vitamix, puree the tomato mixture to desired consistency.  Set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and sweet, about 4 minutes. Add mixed-tomato purée and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a sauce-like consistency, 35-40 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in basil. Stir in oven-dried tomato paste and season with salt. Use as desired or freeze.

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