Sometimes when we say “simple”, we really mean it. Ripe tomatoes, a little onion, some olive oil (bacon fat, if you like), salt and pepper. And some time (mostly inactive). What do you get? Sweet and tasty tomato sauce. And what about herbs and other seasonings? We’ll get there, bear with us….
One of the keys for this sauce is taking the time to roast the tomatoes in the oven before you simmer them in the pot. The roasting caramelizes the tomatoes and adds more sweetness and complexity to the final sauce. The other key is using very ripe, even slightly overripe tomatoes- we just happen to have a bunch of our tomatoes and we need to use them. But many farmer’s markets will have late-season tomatoes, ask for their sweetest, ripe tomatoes. And go ahead and buy the ugly tomatoes- it’s all going into sauce anyway.
Making the sauce, as we noted, is easy. Roast the tomatoes (a lot of them). Meanwhile, add some olive oil and/or bacon fat to a big pot and sweat about half an onion. When the tomatoes roast and start to brown, remove them from the oven and add them (and any liquid) to the pot. Simmer at low heat for an hour, add a touch of water if the consistency gets too dry (don’t worry about dilution, plenty of flavor here). Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
At this stage you have a choice. If you like a more “rustic” sauce with skins and seeds, just mash-up any large chunks with a wooden spoon and you’re done. If, like us, you like a smooth consistency there is a bit more work to do. We take an immersion blender to the sauce for a few seconds (a potato masher also works really well) and then strain the sauce through a mesh strainer to remove skins and seeds. We use a ladle to mash the sauce into the strainer to get as much sauce as we can. This sounds fussy, but it only takes 2-3 minutes and you do a get a smooth, glossy sauce. Your choice.
Finally, how do we serve the sauce? This is where the sauce really shines. We use this sauce as a base and then do a quick cook with any other flavors we want to add, just before service. This time we browned a bit of home-cured bacon, added the sauce, a bit more pepper and a chiffonade of basil at the end. Yum. But a bit of garlic, thyme, oregano and olive oil would be great. Some Italian sausage? Excellent. You get the idea. So make this sauce and then add whatever you like, the sweet tomatoes are a great foundation to work from.
Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce:
Notes Before You Start:
- Use any variety of sweet, ripe tomato you like. We used our orange Valencia and Purple Cherokee tomatoes. They were great.
What You Get: Sweet, bright and flavorful tomato sauce.
What You Need: No special equipment required, but the immersion blender is a good tool. A regular blender also works.
How Long? About 2 hours, with 20 minutes active time. A fun weekend (or free weekday) project.
- Ripe tomatoes, as many as you want. Halved or quartered, if large
- Onion, diced. Assume 1/2 of a large onion per dozen tomatoes
- Olive oil and/or bacon fat. Assume 2 tablespoons per 1/2 onion
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Arrange the racks in your oven to fit a few baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Half or quarter the tomatoes and place them on baking sheets, skin side down (grease the baking sheets with some olive oil to avoid sticking).
- Place the baking sheets with the tomatoes in the oven and roast until the tomatoes start to brown on the edges, about 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, place a large pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the onion. Cook the onion until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and any juices to the pot. Bring the tomatoes to a boil and then move the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. If the sauce gets dry, add a little water. Mash any large chunks against the side of the pot. Taste and add salt and pepper. Serve or store in jars. The sauce will keep a week in the fridge. Or…
- Using a blender or immersion blender, purée the sauce. Then run the sauce through a fine mesh strainer or sieve. Use a ladle to push the sauce through the strainer. Serve or store in jars. The sauce will keep a week in the fridge.
- The Easiest Tomato Sauce for Pasta (simplycooking.wordpress.com)
- Simple Homemade Tomato Sauce. (amomredefined.wordpress.com)
- Tomato Sauce from Scratch: Who Needs Therapy? (blondexambition.wordpress.com)
- How To Make The Most Of Those Beautiful, Bountiful Tomatoes (eatdrinkbetter.com)