It's August here on the Jersey Shore and that means tomatoes!
Lots of 'em! We've been knee deep in tomatoes around here. I planted one cherry tomato in the garden that has become a total beast — I swear the plant is six feet wide and covered in tiny red fruits. And then the CSA we belong to has been giving us bags full of Beefsteaks, Heirlooms, cherry tomatoes and more. We're being overrun by tomatoes over here!!! It's like Attack of the killer tomatoes! (hey —was that filmed in Jersey?)
Anyhow, times like these call for making a big pot of sauce. And while I know you don't wanna spend the dog days of summer with a pot on the stove — trust me, it's well worth it.
Now the measurements in this recipe are just approximate so you have some wiggle room. Which means the sauce will taste a little different from person to person and batch to batch. You can follow the basic recipe but make it your own according to your tastes — that's the beauty of it.
I usually use yellow onions when I make this recipe, but I had some leeks in the fridge so I used one in place of half the onion. Remember to salt the onions and peppers so the sauce will taste well seasoned.
My son doesn't like things too spicy so I go easy on the garlic and only add three pressed cloves in the beginning of cooking. But if you like a garlicky kick you can add up to 3 more cloves during the last half hour of cook time.
Fresh chopped basil is kind of a must, but I think you could get away with using a little less if you're not a fan. I love fresh thyme so I add a few sprigs, but it's totally optional. You could also add some fresh oregano if the mood should strike you.
I chop the tomatoes in my blender to make it easy. I'll cut them into smaller chunks, add them to the blender, and use the crushed ice option until I have a choppy, pink liquid. Then into the pot they go. You could also use a food processor or dice them by hand with a serrated knife. It's all good.
The sauce will seem a little watery at first, but as it cooks down it'll thicken. You may want to cover it partially for a while to keep it from becoming too thick too fast. You can also add another can of water to thin it out if it becomes too thick.
When the sauce is done cooking, add some more salt (if necessary) in small increments until it's flavored how you like.
If you have leftover sauce you can label and freeze it for future use. Trust me, it's pretty sweet to bust out some homemade tomato sauce from the garden in the middle of winter.
And finally, if you have any other tips or suggestions please share in the comments below!
Homemade Tomato Sauce
I've adapted this from a treasured recipe given to me years ago by my dear friend Gloria Dimech — who, I gotta say, is one kickass Italian grandma. So rest assured, this is authentic 'gravy' and not some mucked up version I might concoct on the fly. The recipe is easy enough to make 8SAFE by using 100% pure olive oil and tomato paste made from only tomatoes and maybe a little citric acid (I use Muir Glen Organic Tomato Paste).
- 3 Tbsp to 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped (or leeks)
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine or use a garlic press
- add 2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste + 1 can water
- about 8 pounds of fresh tomatoes, chopped (I used 17-18 medium/large sized tomatoes for this recipe)
- 10 leaves chopped fresh basil + 5-10 leaves more, chopped
- 4 sprigs of thyme + 2 or 3 more sprigs
- Warm the olive oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat (use enough to coat the bottom of the pan).
- Add the onions, peppers, and 3 or 4 big pinches of salt. Saute until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- Next add the tomato paste plus one can's worth of water into the pot and stir until combined.
- Then add your chopped tomatoes, basil, and thyme. Heat to boiling, reduce heat, and let simmer on low for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- After a few hours have passed and it's looking like a good consistency, add 5 to 10 more fresh chopped basil leaves and 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme. (You could also add up to three more cloves of garlic through the press at this point too).
- After 30 minutes turn off the heat and add more salt if necessary. If you'd prefer a smooth consistency, use a hand blender to mix it into a nice gravy.
- Serve over rice noodles, sweet Italian style chicken sausage, turkey meatballs, or anything else you can think of!