Easy Summer Tomato Sauce Recipe
In summer, local tomatoes fresh from the fields are plentiful, cheap and flavorful. It's the perfect time to use them in fresh, homemade tomato sauce. With just 2 pounds of tomatoes and a few other ingredients, you can make fresh pasta sauce in less than an hour.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup), chopped
- 3 to 5 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 4 to 5 sprigs fresh culinary thyme, whole
- 1 to 3 sprigs fresh oregano, whole
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes or 1 small jalapeno, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon white or brown sugar, optional
- 1 handful fresh basil
- Parmesan and/or Pecorino Romano cheese, shredded or grated
- Core and peel 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes. (If the peel doesn't easily pull away after coring, see the directions below for blanching.)
- Chop the peeled tomatoes and set them aside.
- Chop the garlic and onion.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the garlic and onion, and cook until the onion becomes soft.
- Meanwhile rinse the herbs.
- Add the tomatoes, thyme, oregano, jalapeno and sugar to the pan.
- Reduce temperature to medium low and cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the sauce is almost dry, fish out the herb stems. (By this time, they will be denuded of leaves.) Discard them.
- Spoon the sauce over pasta.
- Top with Parmesan cheese and basil.
Doubling the recipe produces a quart of sauce you can freeze and use later.
Core, Score and Blanch the Tomatoes
Not sure how to get the peel off the tomatoes? It's as easy as core, score and blanch.
After washing the tomatoes in cool water, core them. In other words, you must remove the hard area where the stem was attached. If the tomatoes are very ripe, sometimes you can peel off the skin with your fingers after coring.
If the tomato skin is tight, score the tomatoes after coring, making an X with a knife across the blossom end and the stem end. Then blanch them in boiling water to loosen the peeling.
Blanching means briefly dropping the tomatoes in boiling water, then submerging them in cold water. After blanching, the skin easily peels away.
I've found that 15 seconds is all it takes to loosen the peels of most tomatoes. Once they're dumped into cold water, in seconds they're cool enough to handle. And the tomato under the peel isn't squishy. In the video below, the chef cores and scores before blanching.
Fresh Ingredients Make the Difference
In addition to garden-fresh tomatoes, the fresh herbs in this recipe really make the difference. Although you can buy herbs in the produce section at the grocery store, the freshest tasting herbs will be the ones that you pick from your garden and use immediately. Be sure to rinse the herbs well in cold water before using them. Also, selecting sprigs that aren't in bloom is best. They're more flavorful.
Basil is an annual herb that likes full sun and plenty of water, especially in the middle of a hot day. This year we sowed spicy bush basil. Spicy bush basil has a compact form and small, tender leaves on branches that become woody over the course of the growing season. Although tiny, the leaves are packed with flavor! For this recipe, I snip off about four sprigs, which is more than enough.
We grow Greek oregano. It's a hardy herb that's easy to grow in our Zone 7 garden. It spreads quickly, and its blooms are very pretty. For this recipe, two to three green sprigs are all you need.
Fresh Culinary Thyme
You'll need several sprigs of culinary thyme for this recipe. We grow a fragrant variegated variety.
Sugar and Spice
To keep the sauce from tasting too "tomato-y," add ½ or 1 full teaspoon of white or brown sugar.
For a little spice, add a pinch of red pepper flakes. For hot, spicy flavor, add a fresh jalapeno pepper, diced.
Garlic is a must-have in this recipe. Don't leave it out, no matter what. Locally grown is best, but garlic heads from the produce section of your grocery store work well too. If you use jarred, minced garlic, you can reduce the olive oil in the recipe to 2 Tbsp.
Smash and Peel Garlic
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© 2015 Jill Spencer