I’m posting this recipe now to encourage you to grow your own tomatoes, and at the least, try making a fresh tomato sauce from fresh, ripe, Roma tomatoes. There is nothing quite like growing your own tomatoes, then taking those vine ripened beauties and turning them into a delicious tomato sauce.
In August and September the house smelled of fresh tomatoes when we would bring in bushels of vine ripened Roma tomatoes for canning. I recall when I did my own canning after moving up to Rockland County, prior to installing central air in my house. I would always comment, “This is the hottest day of the year and I’m here sweating, canning tomatoes”. Now I know why our parents did all their canning in the basement kitchens, it was cooler. I always jumped in my swimming pool outside to cool off between batches. But I was grateful all year long when I enjoyed that delicious fresh sauce. A small price to pay for that kind of enjoyment.
If you get the bug and decide to try this fresh tomato sauce in the middle of January and can only buy the Roma tomatoes from your local supermarket, don’t worry. Plan a week ahead and leave the store-bought tomatoes to fully ripen on your counter before making the sauce. They will not be as sweet as vine ripened tomatoes but still better than store-bought canned tomatoes. The only other equipment you will need is a food mill to strain the skin and seeds from the tomato pulp. If you don’t have a food mill you can get away with pressing the puree through a strainer. It’s more work, but does the job.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
- 5 pounds ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes
- 1 cup of water
- 2 bay leaves, fresh if possible
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, 2 peeled and chopped, 2 whole unpeeled
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- leaves from large bunch of fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon salt or to taste
- 1 tablespoon of sugar or to taste (if tomatoes are not in season use the sugar. If you grew them fresh and vine ripened, omit at least half the sugar, if not all).
Place tomatoes and 2 unpeeled, smashed garlic cloves and water in a large pot. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the tomatoes split, about 20 minutes. Stir the tomatoes to break them up.
Uncover and mash the tomatoes more, then cover and cook another 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and pass the puree through a food mill to separate the skins and seeds from the tomatoes.
In a large clean pot heat up the olive oil, add the onions and saute for 2 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the tomato puree and basil and cook over medium heat, uncovered, until thickened, 30-35 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and sugar to taste.
You can use the sauce immediately over pasta or place the hot sauce in sterilized jars and store in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use them.