I have been making tomato sauce from the garden for over 30 years, but only recently did I come upon this method and I think it is the best. Why? Well it is easy for one thing. Just pop it in an oven, sit down to read a book or play with your kids or whatever, and get up every 15 minutes or so to stir it. The other reason is that the slow oven cooking caramelizes the sugars that are naturally present in the tomatoes giving a sweetness and intensity that you just cannot get with a stove-top tomato sauce. You will soon notice on this blog that I use a large roasting pan often to make my favorite easy meals. If you do not have one yet, I highly recommend a dark, steel roasting pan. To tell you the truth, I have had mine so long I do not know who the manufacturer is but it is indispensable in my kitchen.
I started with this harvest of tomatoes. The rain was really coming down so we needed to salvage them before it was too late and they rotted. A lot of them are cracked and a few are also not as ripe as I would like. The beautiful convoluted ones are called Costoluto Genovese.
Adrian is removing the core of the tomato with a knife. This is a Cherokee Purple tomato, they often have a bit of green around the top.
I put them in boiling water for a minute or so to blanch and help with removing the skin. I took them out of the water with one of my favorite kitchen tools which is this Asian style handled strainer.
After they cool a bit we removed the skin and broke the tomatoes into rough pieces with our hands. Adrian is doing this over a bowl. We usually catch all the juices and scrape out most of the seeds into a bowl and discard them. I think the seeds make the sauce bitter. We put the chunks of tomatoes in another bowl ready for making the sauce. This can be done ahead of time and they can be refrigerated.
Oops, time to run out to the garden with a flashlight to grab some herbs. At least I caught a glimpse of the sunset….
I grabbed some of this fresh thyme and also some oregano. I kept the stems whole, no need to chop them.
I put some extra virgin olive oil into the pan. Then all these big chunks of tomatoes, onions and whole cloves of garlic, along with the stalks of herbs, were thrown into the pan. Sometimes I have added chunks of red bell peppers or eggplant also. I put the pan into the very hot oven…400-450 degrees is good.
After 15 minutes, I opened the oven and gave it a stir. As you can see the vegetables have released a lot of liquid. I continued to open the oven every 15 minutes or so, giving it a stir, and then closed the oven. Eventually the liquid evaporated and it started browning around the edges.One more stir, then I gave it another 10-15 minutes or so and it was done. This step should take 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
It should look like this.
Here I am pulling the stems of the herbs out of the sauce. The actual herbs will have dissolved into the sauce and flavored it. How easy is that?
I put it in a bowl and hit it with a hand blender until it is my desired level of smoothness. Notice the whole garlic clove in there. It will puree easily. The stick hand blender is another one of my indispensable kitchen tools. But you could cool it and put it in a food processor or a regular blender.
This is it, the final sauce. It is delicious on pasta or as a base for soups. It also can be used on pizza…
I froze some to use later. Believe it or not that huge pile of tomatoes cooked down to about 2 quarts of delicious concentrated extract of tomato…