Procrastination Cooking: Homemade Tomato Sauce

There are only two things I can think of to do with a 5-lb bag of plum tomatoes: make jars of salsa or a pot of spaghetti sauce. If I make fresh salsa, I run into the inevitable corn-chip-to-salsa-ratio problem where I run out of corn chips, buy a new bag, then run out of salsa. You can never have the perfect amount of chips and salsa. If I make spaghetti sauce, I can freeze it and have delicious, homemade sauce in the fall.

As you may have already figured out, in this week’s CSA box I got a 5-lb bag of plum tomatoes and I decided to make homemade tomato sauce. In my opinion, Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to make tomato sauce. It’s what Italian grandmothers have been doing for centuries. Church in the morning, then hours in the kitchen preparing for an early dinner.

In my search for classic tomato sauce recipe, I learned that there are three stages to Italian cooking: battuto, soffritto, and insaporire. The first stage, battuto, refers to the chopped veggie mixture that forms the base of many Italian dishes. Traditionally, this included lard, parsley and onion, but nowadays cooks have substituted olive oil for lard, and added celery and carrot. Next is the soffritto stage where the battuto is sautéed. This is a crucial stage because it directs the flavor of the whole dish. Always always always sautée the onion before adding the garlic. If you do it right, you will end up with a much richer base that is not overpowered by garlic. The final step is called insaporire, which means “bestowing taste.” This is when you add the main ingredient, whether it be meat, rice, or vegetables, to the battuto.

Not all recipes will follow these steps strictly, but most will. You’ll notice that this recipe adds the main ingredient, tomatoes, in the very beginning.

Alexia Detweiler is a freelance writer in Lancaster, Pa., where she is lucky enough to live down the street from one of the top farmers’ markets in the world.


Tomato Sauce with Olive Oil and Chopped Vegetables
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Serves 6

2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, or 1 can plum tomatoes
2/3 cup chopped carrot
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
red wine

Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for one minute or less. Drain them, and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, skin them, and cut them up in coarse pieces. If you bought canned plum tomatoes, you can skip this step.

Put either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned in a saucepan, add the carrot, celery, onion, and salt, and cook with no lid at a slow, steady simmer for 30 minutes. Stir from time to time.

Add the olive oil and a splash of wine, raise the heat slightly to bring to a somewhat stronger simmer, and stir occasionally, while reducing the tomato to as much of a pulp as you can with the back of the spoon. Cook for 15 minutes, then taste and add salt if necessary.

If you want the sauce to be a little thicker, continue to simmer without a lid, but keep an eye on it so that it does not burn. This sauce may be frozen when done. Let it cool completely before putting it in the freezer.

Recipe Index Keywords:

Categories: Blog, Dinner Parties, Eating, Featured, and Recipes.
Cooking Method: Make Ahead and On the Stove.
Mealtime: Dinner.
I Don't Have Any: Money and Space.
I'm Cooking For...: Dinner Party and Summer.
Type of Food: Pasta.
I Don't Eat: Any Animal Products, Carbs, and Dairy.

Originally posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2012

4 Responses to “Procrastination Cooking: Homemade Tomato Sauce”

  1. Karina

    August 30th, 2012

    Didn’t know it was that simple to make spaghetti sauce!!! I always feel guilty giving my kids the canned one!! Thanks for the post!!

  2. Alexia Detweiler

    August 30th, 2012

    Thanks for the comment. And you can get the kids involved smashing the tomatoes. It doesn’t last as long as tomato sauce in the jar, but is so much healthier.

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    August 30th, 2012

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