It’s that time of year when I’ve always got a pot of sauce simmering on the stove. This past week, I made farm fresh tomato sauce three times. One batch for a bunch of hungry teens, another to break in my friend Debbie’s new kitchen and another batch for the freezer.
I’ve got the process down to a science and I’m going to share my tips with you now.
First, you should never use premium tomatoes. And what I mean by that is the ones you spend top dollar on. Most farm stands or farmers’ markets will sell what they call “seconds” for a bargain price. These slightly bruised or overripe tomatoes are actually even better than the full price ones. Just to give you an idea of cost, I spent $6.00 on three baskets of tomatoes (probably around 7-8 pounds). The best market around here to shop for bargain ingredients — garlic ($5 for about 6 heads), fresh basil ($1 a bunch) and second tomatoes ($6.00 for a basket) — is the Paterson Farmers’ market. You can’t beat the prices or the freshness. I’m a regular at my favorite farm stand and sometimes get a call from them when they’ve got tomatoes for me.
Don’t be picky with your tomatoes. They don’t have to be plum tomatoes, the big beefy kind work just as well. Plus you can use a variety of colors.
My second trick is to score and blanch your tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes so that you can easily remove the skins and seeds. There’s no fancy tool for this other than your hands — of course once the tomatoes have cooled some.
The next thing I do which most people don’t is use a wide, open semi-deep pot. Picture a deeper paella pan. There’s something about the design of a deep dish pot which allows the flavors to combine as it simmers.
I use a good amount of olive oil, at least one whole head (not clove!) of garlic smashed and chopped, 8 pounds of tomatoes, a good quality sea salt and a few teaspoons of sugar to neutralize the sauce. Finally, the sauce should simmer and thicken as the on a low heat for hours.