Undoubtedly, fresh ripe tomatoes are the most important component of a superior tomato sauce; however, the other ingredients are important, too. Fresh herbs and spices, extra-virgin olive oil and a good red wine can turn an ordinary sauce into something special.
Bypass the ethylene-gassed tomatoes often found at the supermarket and buy your tomatoes at the farmers' market (or pick them from your own garden, if you have one). Choose brightly colored, slightly firm tomatoes with a little give; this indicates ripeness and sweetness. You can use any variety of tomato, and you can even mix and match. Roma tomatoes work well if you like a thicker sauce because they have less water.
One of the most important parts of making your sauce is prepping the tomatoes correctly. You need to remove all the seeds and skin by cooking the tomatoes quickly in boiling water. Why? Because the seeds can turn bitter after cooking, and the skin never breaks down thoroughly.
The longer a sauce simmers, the less watery it will be. That makes a long-simmered sauce a good choice for freezing. A thinner sauce is good for today but won't retain its texture if frozen and thawed.
Making a homemade tomato sauce is a simple, economical and delicious way to savor summer all year 'round.
Makes 12 servings
20 ripe tomatoes
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup good red wine
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add tomatoes to water and cook about 1 to 2 minutes or until skin begins to come off. Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon and dunk into a large bowl of ice water.
2. Let tomatoes sit in water until they are cool enough to handle. Remove tomatoes from water and remove skin, then slice the tomatoes in half. Scoop out all the seeds and discard. Finely chop tomatoes with a sharp knife and set aside.
3. Heat olive oil in a large pot, and sauté onion and garlic until onion becomes translucent. Add tomatoes, basil, Italian seasoning, red wine and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce comes to a boil.
4. Reduce heat and let sauce simmer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally and adjusting seasoning as necessary.
5. Stir in tomato paste and simmer for another 2 to 3 hours or until it is as thick or thin as you desire.
To freeze: Let sauce sit on stove until fully cooled. Ladle sauce into freezer-safe containers, cover with plastic wrap and then with a lid. Freeze until ready to use. Use within 6 months.
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