Preparing Fresh Tomatoes For Sauce
Once I’d settled on using a mix of tomatoes, the next step was deciding on how to prep them. Most folks agree that an abundance of skin or seeds in a tomato sauce is not a good thing, but there’s more than one way to remove that stuff from a sauce.
Some recipes call for discarding the seeds altogether, but, as I’ve already mentioned, I like the flavor of the jelly the seeds are suspended in too much to do thatin fact, it has a tartness that I think is essential to creating what will ultimately be a sauce that has a good balance of sweet and tart flavors.
As for the skins, one option is to score the tomatoes, quickly blanch them, and then peel off their skins, a method Kenji describes in his article on peeling and dicing tomatoes. This is fine for small quantities of sauce, but I felt strongly that I wanted to select a method that would work for large batcheswe are doing this in peak tomato season, so we might as well make a lot, and peeling each tomato individually isn’t practical.
The method I know best is one I used when working on farms in Italy, where we would make vats of sauce each week in the peak of summer. The tomatoes are cut into chunks, cores, skins, stems, seeds, and all dumped into a pot and set over high heat until they dump their juices and come to a boil.*
** In fact, in Italian, this watery, fresh-tomato purée is called a passata .
Once we have our tomato purée, the next question is what to do with it.
How To Can Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
If you have loads of tomatoes and you are wanting to can some spaghetti sauce to use later, we have the perfect recipe for you! It is one of the top recipes on our site and one of my favorite canning recipes of all time! Click HERE for our Canned Spaghetti Sauce recipe. Use it in everything from our delicious Spaghetti Squash Lasagna to our Quick and Easy Calzones.
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How To Freeze Homemade Tomato Sauce
Freeze for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe zipper bag or container, making sure to leave room for expansion as it freezes. Tomato sauce can stain plastic containers so if you choose to freeze in a plastic container, make sure itâs one you donât mind getting stained.
Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or thaw on the stovetop on medium low heat, stirring occasionally.
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Ingredients For The Sauce
- Tomatoes: Of course homegrown tomatoes are ideal. But if youre like me and dont have a garden, supermarket or farmers market heirloom tomatoes, vine tomatoes, or plum tomatoes all work beautifully. You can also make a delicious raw tomato sauce with cherry tomatoes. Whatever type of tomato you choose, give them a quick taste to be sure theyre sweet, juicy and delicious!
- Garlic: Use a small clove and chop it very finely or grate on a rasp grater. Since the garlic isnt cooked it packs a punch. A little dab will do ya!
- Freshbasil leaves: Tear them or slice into ribbons. Parsley, fresh marjoram or oregano taste different but will work as well.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Absolutely use a good everyday oil, or better yet a bottle you keep for drizzling as a finishing oil.
Tomato Tips For The Best Flavor
As this sauce is made from fresh tomatoes, the quality of the tomatoes is important for great flavor.
If your tomatoes are very tart, you can add a little bit of shredded carrot for sweetness or a pinch of sugar if youd like.
Tomatoes can range in flavor from very sweet, to very tart or even bland if theyre not in season. Taste a slice of tomato before cooking and Ive included some tips in the notes in the recipe below based on the flavor of your tomatoes.
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A Big Saucepan Is An Essential In Making A Tomato Sauce
Cherry tomatoes release a lot of liquid during cooking, so you should use a large mixing bowl to ensure the even distribution of the fruits. Before adding the tomato mixture to the saucepan, you can place a sheet of parchment paper over the top of the saucepan. Its best to use a big saucepan, so the ingredients dont stick together. Once you have browned them, you can add dried thyme and fresh basil. You can also add crushed red pepper flakes if youd like.
You can also use a large mixing bowl to help with this process. Using a large bowl will coat the tomatoes in tomato paste thoroughly. Then, pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake it in the oven for about one hour. A little balsamic vinegar is an excellent addition to your sauce. It will help the sauce retain its flavor and color. Then, you can drizzle it with balsamic vinegar.
Whats The Difference Between Italian Tomato Sauce Vs Sunday Gravy Vs Marinara Sauce
- For Jack, an Italian Tomato Sauce is a tomato-based sauce that simmers for a long time on the stove so that the flavors really deepen and develop.
- A Sunday Gravy recipe is a tomato sauce cooked along with a variety of meats including meatballs, spare ribs, sausage, and pork chops, so the sauce picks up additional flavor from the meat.
- Finally, is also a tomato-based sauce, but its a quickly-cooked sauce, yielding a bright, fresh tomato flavor.
- And since were talking about all types of tomato sauces we also have a Roasted Tomato Pizza Sauce recipe AND an Easy No-Cook Pizza Sauce recipe you might be interested in checking out too. Pizza sauces typically have a bold flavor that is meant to both complement and shine through the flavors of the dough, cheese and toppings on a pizza.
Todays recipe is originally inspired by a version of Italian Tomato Sauce that Jack grew up with, and he credits his Aunt Mary for this recipe, plus some additional influences from the sauce that Jacks father used to make. If you happen to be growing San Marzano Pomodoro tomatoes in your garden definitely use those! However, if fresh tomatoes arent available, we think some of the best San Marzano Pomodoro canned tomatoes are made by Cento and Pastene and both brands are readily available at most local grocery stores.
You may also like these other Italian family classics:
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How To Use Tomato Sauce
Fresh tomato sauce is lighter in color and more delicate in flavor than one made from canned tomatoes. A pasta dish is the most obvious way to use it. Stir it into spaghetti, penne or another shape. Sprinkle the pasta with Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley or torn fresh basil to finish it.
This sauce recipe is great for pizza too, especially if you like a chunkier sauce on the crust. Keep it simple with mozzarella and not much else, so you can focus on the sauce.
How To Make Marinara Sauce With Fresh Tomatoes
To make this simple marinara sauce, heat a touch of oil in a pot, add some garlic, throw in diced fresh tomatoes and let that all simmer. Not only is cooking going to break these tomatoes down into a smooth sauce and remove those sour tones, but its also going to increase the concentration of lycopene, one of the most potent antioxidants!
Once youve cooked down the tomatoes into your desired thickness and consistency, add in your flavor makers: basil, parsley, and honey.
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How To Make Homemade Tomato Sauce
Spaghetti Sauce With Fresh Tomatoes
Spaghetti Sauce takes on a fresher, more vibrant flavor when you make it with juicy garden tomatoes. I am so excited to share this recipe with you! I promise, you will never go back to store-bought sauce again . We always have dozens of plump, ripe, red tomatoes in our garden and I love finding a scrumptious way to use them all up. This recipe makes me think of early summer suppers on our patio overlooking the garden. Its such a joy to eat the fruits of your labor!
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How Italians Make Fresh Tomato Sauce
This is the time of the year we would focus mainly on picking and boiling tomatoes to make a delicious sauce that I then usually use for my pasta dishes.
We would sit around a huge pot of boiling water filled with tomatoes. We would then peel, squish and squeeze those tomatoes into as many bottles as we can fill,
Cap them and then boil the bottles in a huge metal barrel over a wood burning fire. These will last over the winter until the next August.
When I have too many ripe tomatoes I make a home made fast version of the way we used to make the sauce. This way uses approximately 10 ripe tomatoes and is plenty enough to feed 3-4 people for lunch and dinner or whichever you prefer.
Homemade Tomato Sauce Ingredients
- Olive oil. Just enough olive oil to caramelize the onions.
- Onion. Any onion will do, I used a sweet yellow onion.
- Garlic. I want this to be a BASIC tomato sauce so that it can become other things later. I went easy on the garlic in this recipe. You can always add more garlic later if you want to.
- Tomatoes. Were using FRESH tomatoes . So clear out the garden, hit up your farmers market, or watch for those sales!
- Salt & Pepper. The usual suspects.
- Dried Basil. Since basil is naturally sweet, it complements the tomatoes well.
- Carrots are optional, but theyre naturally sweet and go well with tomatoes.
- Bell Peppers are also optional, but they balance out all the flavors. Plus its an easy way to sneak in more veggies!
Psst! If youre going to add salt, I highly recommend Ava Janes Kitchen. You may think all salt is created equal, but unfortunately, 90% of the salt produced around the world contains microplastics . Ava Janes Kitchen is an exception. Their salt is 100% microplastic-free, and its SO GOOD! Plus, you can get a bag for just 1¢!!
What To Serve With Tomato Sauce
Where do we start? Use tomato sauce as a dipping sauce for cheesy bread, garlic bread, or mozzarella sticks. Top pasta or vegetables with it. Use it to simmer eggs in tomato sauce until they’re cooked to your liking, or to simmer cooked white beans. Tomato sauce can also be the red sauce for steaming mussels.
Homemade Tomato Sauce Serving Suggestions
Most often, I serve this fresh tomato sauce over pasta. Toss it with your favorite pasta shape for a flavorful, satisfying summer dinner. Tip: a few fresh basil leaves and some grated Parmesan really take this meal over the top.
Not in the mood for pasta? Not a problem! Here are a few more ways to use this sauce:
- On pizza. Make a classic Margherita, or add whatever toppings you like!
- Over polenta. Spoon it over creamy polenta for a hearty side dish, or add roasted broccoli or grilled zucchini to make it a meal.
- On zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. We love these light, fresh pasta alternatives.
- In a meatball sub. Fill soft baguette with vegan meatballs and spoonfuls of the fresh tomato sauce!
Let me know what ideas you try!
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A Summary Of How To Make The Best Fresh Tomato Sauce
There are many, many ways to make very good tomato sauce, but if you’re going to take the time to prepare it using fresh tomatoes, the key to creating a balanced, rich, and layered sauce that tastes fresh, yet also deep and complex, is to think of it as a blender’s art: Make tomato purée and divide it into parts, then slow-cook one portion of it into a thick, sweet, caramelized paste cook another portion into the bulk of the sauce, flavored with basil, possibly tomato leaves, and aromatics and save a small portion of the barely cooked purée to add at the end for a bright, fresh note, similar to how we often finish dishes with a drizzle of uncooked olive oil.
Exactly how you use the sauce will determine final steps: On pasta, for instance, you can finish the pasta in a pan with the sauce and some of the pasta-cooking water, adding a little raw olive oil, a pat of butter, or a splash of cream at the end, depending on the final flavor you want.
It may be a little fussy, but it’s also the first tomato sauce I’ve made that I haven’t wanted to top with cheese. And really, I don’t even need the pasta, either. Just give me a spoon.
Canned Or Fresh Tomatoes In Tomato Sauce
When tomatoes are in season, fresh tomatoes are great in this sauce. But, when tomatoes aren’t in season and your only option is grocery store tomatoes that can be flavorless, canned tomatoes are a better choice for homemade tomato sauce. Note that if you do use fresh tomatoes, the simmering time may take longer.
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Which Fresh Tomato Varieties Are Best For Sauce
The first rule of making tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes is to do it in the peak of summer, when tomatoes are not only at their absolute best but also at their absolute cheapest. In the winter, when the only tomatoes available are ghostly versions of their in-season selves, it often makes more sense to use canned: Canned tomatoes tend to be made with fruit that’s riper than anything we can hope to get out of season, and they’re generally cheaper, especially when you account for the amount of water weight that fresh ones have to shed before they become sauce.
But there’s still the question of which fresh tomatoes to use when they’re at their peak. The general wisdom says to use pulpy “paste” tomatoes , which are less watery. Those guys yield more sauce per pound of fruit and require a shorter cooking time to get rid of the liquid, which helps retain some of that fresh tomato flavor.
But are plum tomatoes really the best way to go? And does it matter which kind of plum tomato you use? I bought four different types of tomato at the farmers market: three different varieties of plum tomato, and then common beefsteaks, which are basically never recommended for sauce due to their juiciness.
There are far more varieties of tomato than this, but it isn’t practical to test them all, and, frankly, most other varieties, such as most heirlooms, require paying a premiummaking them a prohibitively expensive option for sauce.
Flaws But Not Dealbreakers
The Cuisipro is not good at grating mozzarellabut to be fair, very few other graters are. In our testing, nearly all graters caused the cheese to crumble and shear off in chunks. Because the Cuisipros teeth are so sharp, however, you cant really force smaller chunks through the holes unless youre wearing a cut glove to protect your fingers.
While the big and medium holes on the Cuisipro have a nice wide 3.5-inch plane for grating, the zesting and slicer sides offer only about 2¼ inches. Thats not a big deal when it comes to zesting lemons or grating nutmeg, but it does make it hard to slice a large potato or beet. And even though the Cuisipros teeth shave food easily, and thus faster, they also shaved more finely, requiring more swipes over the grating surface.
All of the graters we looked at are dishwasher-safe, but Cuisipro recommends hand washing its graters. A representative told us that putting them regularly through the dishwasher can dull the bladesmuch as it would a chefs knife. Still, like all the graters we tested, it was very easy to clean under running water and with a soapy sponge.
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What Are The Best Tomatoes For Marinara Sauce
You can use almost any tomato to make marinara sauce from scratch, but the best ones will be the paste tomatoes. These are meatier and have less water content, meaning you need to cook them for less time to get to that nice, thick sauce. Look for Roma or San Marzano tomatoes .
This marinara sauce is naturally chunky, but you can easily make it into a smooth and silky marinara with a quick blitz in the blender. I prefer to use a handheld immersion blender to puree it right in the pot, but you could also transfer it to a countertop blender.
Choosing Tomatoes For Sauce: Big Boys Are Best
Any tomato that tastes good can be used to make tomato sauce its really that simple. Romas and other paste tomatoes are often recommended for canning because they generally have more flesh with less juice and fewer seeds. However, they are smaller , and I often find that their flavor isnt as good as other tomatoes. I used Big Boy tomatoes your basic summer slicing tomato and couldnt be happier. If you like what you start with, youll like what you finish with.
Another factor to consider is the cost. Anything more than a dollar a pound and the cost-effectiveness of this project starts to plummet. A friend of mine who tries to can around 180 pounds of tomatoes each summer says she doesnt pay much attention to the particular tomato variety she just picks up what she can find for cheap. This often means buying in bulk directly from farms or picking your own or, even better, growing your own if you can!