Last week, I was lucky enough to get a complimentary shipment of tomatoes from Tony’s Family Farms. I interviewed Tony, a local farmer and produce supplier, for a story I was writing and the next day he showed up with a giant crate of glasshouse tomatoes from MightyVine in Chicago.
MightyVine’s tomatoes are, in a word, delicious. I think they could make even a tomato nonbeliever into a believer. They’re ripe, bright red, juicy, and fresh. The cherry tomatoes pop in your mouth and are as addictive as candy. I will be very sad when this crate is empty.Still, there were so many tomatoes in the crate that I panicked a little. How would I use them all up? Would they go bad if I didn’t use them in the next few days? How should I store them?
The answer is, the tomatoes keep for a pretty long time on the counter at a cool room temperature. I have mine in the kitchen, uncovered, and they’ve lasted about a week so far. Tomatoes are fragile beings so you don’t want to crowd them or handle them roughly. As long as you keep that in mind, you should be good.
I decided to make homemade tomato sauce with my tomatoes. I came across a recipe from Marcella Hazan, a famous Italian cookbook author, as I was trying to find ways to use up the tomatoes.
HOWEVER, I only used Hazan’s recipe as a guide. If you look at it, you’ll see it calls for two cups of tomatoes with their juices. Hazan most likely was thinking of canned tomatoes so that’s where the two cups and juices comes into play. Obviously, I was not using canned tomatoes so I more or less eyeballed it and I added a little water to the pot when I combined the ingredients for the sauce.
Second, I had waaaay more tomatoes than Hazan did when she made this recipe, so I did rough arithmetic and tripled it. I say “rough” because I threw most of the middle-sized tomatoes into a pot and estimated that it was around six cups.
A few other notes about this recipe: It calls for a lot of butter. This might freak you out but don’t panic. The butter is very subtle and it gives the sauce a velvety, smooth texture. You will be happy that you went all out when you taste the finished product.
Second, this sauce takes a long time to cook. Hazan’s recipe says it will take 45 minutes but again, that’s if you’re going by the book and using two cups of tomatoes. Using 20 medium tomatoes or 10 big ones means that your sauce will take about two hours to cook. I know this commitment isn’t for everyone but trust me when I say, it’s worth it. You can put the sauce in one big jar or multiple jars to share with friends and family. You can even freeze it, if you’re so inclined.
An easy trick for peeling the tomatoes is to boil them first. Cut small x’s in the bottom of each tomato with a paring knife, submerge them in boiling water for a minute, and then carefully place them into a big bowl filled with cold water. The skins will practically remove themselves after that.
This recipe yields a sauce that’s so good, I’m having trouble finding the words to describe it. It’s better than the sauce I’ve tried at many Italian restaurants. I had my boyfriend over for dinner the night I made it and he was impressed. He’s still talking about it days later.
So yeah. Make this sauce as soon as possible. I made another batch last night with the large tomatoes and it turned out as well, if not better. Even though my recipe involves a lot of eyeballing ingredients and improvising as I go, I’ve provided a rough guide for you below.
Here’s a song to get you started on your tomato sauce journey.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
20 medium-sized ripe Roma-style tomatoes, or 10 large ripe cutting tomatoes, peeled
2 cups of warm water
2 sticks of butter (16 Tbsp)
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
salt to taste
sugar to taste
Combine the tomatoes, water, butter, onion, salt, and sugar in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. I’d start with more salt than sugar and taste and adjust later. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer on medium heat.
Allow the mixture to cook down for about two hours, mashing down large bits of tomato with a spoon or even a potato masher. Stir the mixture every so often to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. Taste and adjust your salt and sugar. I usually end up adding a little more sugar.
Once the mixture coats the back of a spoon and has reduced to your liking, pour the sauce into a clean prepared jar or jars. Seal tightly and allow to come to room temperature. Place in the fridge to store it. Or, if you want to enjoy delicious pasta right away, mix some of the sauce into noodles.*
*A great way to make pasta is by saving a little of the pasta water from when you cook the noodles, putting it into a large pan, mixing some sauce in, and then tossing the noodles in the pan.