Friday, September 11, 2009

191. Fresh Tomato Sauce (p. 207)

Tomatoes have been having a rough go of it over the past couple of years. Last year it was a salmonella scare, and this year, it's an attack of late blight. I had pretty much resigned myself to another summer without tomatoes. But for whatever reason, Farmer Dave (my CSA farmer) and Mann Orchard have been spared the blight, and I've been able to get plenty of beautiful, fresh ripe tomatoes. And I'm loving it.

So, when I got a load of tomatoes in my CSA box a few weeks ago, I decided to make this recipe* for Fresh Tomato Sauce. This sauce is a lot of things. It's easy to make, it's uncomplicated, and it's fresh and light tasting. But, there's one thing this sauce isn't. It's not your Nonna's Sunday Gravy. Now, I'm not Italian, and I don't have a Nonna. But my wife is part Italian, and her family's recipe for Sicilian tomato sauce is a big part of our culinary lives. When we were first married, we carried on her family tradition that "Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti day."

So, if I'm comparing this recipe for Fresh Tomato Sauce to Grandma Leone's recipe from the Old Country, this recipe loses. But, if I can separate the two and keep in mind that they're two completely different things, this sauce is very good, and a nice change of pace.

To make the sauce, I peeled six pounds of fresh, ripe tomatoes. Peeling tomatoes sounds like a pain, but it's really easy and worth the effort (despite what I've said before). All you need to do is bring a big pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut a little X in the bottom of each tomato. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for about 10 to 20 seconds (the more ripe the tomatoes are, the less time they'll need in the boiling water). Immediately plunge the tomatoes in a big bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, you should be able to pull the skins off without any problem. Next, I removed the seeds. This sounds like a pain, too, but it's really easy. Just set a sieve over a large bowl, cut the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze them to release all of the seeds and juice. The seeds get trapped in the sieve, and the juice collects in the bowl so that it can be added back to the sauce. Then I chopped the peeled, seeded tomatoes.

With the heavy prep work done, I moved on to the cooking. I heated some olive oil in a stock pot and added five cloves of thinly sliced garlic. Once the garlic was golden, I added the chopped tomatoes, reserved juice, and a little bit of sugar and salt, and simmered it for about an hour. I stirred in a big handful of chopped fresh basil and I served it with some sauteed sliced Italian chicken sausage over rice pasta (my wife is back on dairy and some soy, but gluten is still off limits).

Like I said, this sauce doesn't hold a candle to my wife's family recipe. It doesn't have the substance, spice, and subtle flavors that you can only get from slow cooking and a few family secrets. But, when viewed for what it is -- a simple celebration of fresh, summer tomatoes -- this sauce is really very good.

Date Cooked: August 30, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B+

* I couldn't find this recipe on

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