Monday, August 22, 2011

Basic Tomato Sauce

A few weeks ago I got all those tomatoes, remember?  I had seeded and drained them and hidden them away in freezer bags.   So it was time to make sauce.  A while back I made my "winter sauce" from canned tomatoes, and this is what I do in the summer with real ones. 

I make a few different pasta sauces.  This one is thick, almost like tomato paste - you can use it in place of paste - but I held on to the tomato juice as well and I can heat up some of this with some of that to get the texture that I want.  Or I could have cooked it down less and kept it at a saucy consistency. 

No recipe here, just the basics, because I don't know if you have a freezer bag full of skinned, seedless, drained tomatoes and a separate jar of tomato juice.  Start from what you've got. 

A decent sized onion and a few cloves of garlic.

A couple of carrots.   This is like the equivalent of two medium carrots.  Looking at imperfectly-shaped farm carrots now reminds me of those racy vegetable images

I grate half the carrot, and then chop up the nubs.  This way it seems intentional and not lazy.

note the nubs in the bottom right
A sweet bell pepper.  This one actually had a little kick, so much that I had to have Sous Chef Brian taste and confirm, and then look back at the others to be sure it really was "just a" bell pepper. 

So I put the carrot nubs, onion and garlic in a pot with some olive oil and cook it down just until softened.  Do this with the lid on and it's called sweating.  Do this without the lid on and it's not.

Then add tomatoes and peppers.  I had about 4 cups of tomatoes. 

Simmer a bit, on low.  I was like an hour in at this point.  Then add fun stuff.    Sauce can be a bit too bright, a bit too tangy.  Give it depth.  Make it richer.  Add wine and cheese. 

I put a bowl cover on my wine at the end of the night and sometimes go back to it the next night.  Because I'm super-classy.   So I added about this much wine.   What kind of wine?  I don't know, red.  This time I used malbec, but I've definitely used cabernet and pinot noir.  

And a cheese rind.  I'm a big advocate of holding on to cheese rinds just for this purpose.  Keep them in the freezer until sauce day.

Now that's a very chunky sauce, and that's ok if you want it like that.  Just keep simmering and skip this step.  Otherwise, if you want a smoother sauce or a paste, blend it.  Carefully, it's hot.  Once it's the texture you're after, return it to the pot.  Hot tip: remove cheese rind before blending, and then return to pot. 

Oh yeah, herbs!  Add herbs.  Last year, when I had herbs in my farmshare, I could add fresh oregano and basil and parsley and such.  This year, I've been unsuccessful in keeping a basil plant alive and I just don't have it on hand.  Oregano freezes really well, I actually just bought a bunch specifically to freeze (after I made this sauce) so keep that in mind and herb up your sauce.   

note the frozen basil cubes
This is the step where I add salt and pepper and some red pepper flake if necessary, and the grated carrot we reserved earlier.  Get some sweetness back in there.   And keep simmering.   At least another hour. 

Here's my sauce/paste.  Remove and discard the cheese rind at the end. I can use it as paste, or I can add the amount of cooked tomato juice I need to make it the appropriate consistency for pizza sauce or pasta sauce or whatever.  Or you could start with more liquid from the get-go to make the sauce you need for a particular application. 

Re-using the same picture. I put my sauces in jars and stash them in the freezer.  

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