Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sundays with Sparky - Rock Your Veg: Mama's Chunky Pasta Sauce

Every year, for several Saturdays in August and September I go to my local farmer's market, buy a bushel of tomatoes, and process them into the pasta sauce we eat all year. I'm not insane: homemade pasta sauce is infinitely better than the stuff you get at the grocery store, it's better for you (I don't add salt) and it really isn't as hard as you would think.

 There are three main parts to turning tomatoes into sauce: peeling, seeding, and reducing. In the past, I'd "petaled" the tomatoes (cutting off the outsides so the seedy part remains together) and roasted them to get the peels off and reduce the liquid, but this year I discovered this method for tomato peeling that I find to be far superior. (I don't like to lose even one drop of tomato juice to boiling water.) So, I bought a half-bushel of tomatoes to start out with, and about half of that wound up in my freezer, waiting for a cool day.

010 I allowed the tomatoes to thaw slightly, and then brought in Sparky, who sliced the skin on each tomato into four wedges:
025The skin came off quite easily, without bringing any flesh with it.

029Moving on to seeding, I "petaled" the tomatoes, since I like a chunky pasta sauce (otherwise, just skip this step and cut your whole tomatoes into chunks).Since they were frozen, sometimes the seeds popped out as a whole little package.

032I put any seedy or stemmy parts in one bowl, and the meaty, seeded parts in another, and a bowl of skins for the compost pile - we wound up with neatly dissected tomatoes.

034The seedy/stemmy parts went into our cast-iron casserole and were cooked until the flesh melted off the stems (about an hour on medium heat.)

After a while, I set a strainer over my pot with the meaty bits, so they could thaw and drain directly into the pot.

051 After the juices had cooked down and the tomatoes tenderized, we scooped the cooked tomatoes into a strainer over our tallest container. Then Sparky mashed and scraped the tomatoes until they let go all the precious pulp from the seeds. You should wind up with something like this:
Then,after discarding the seeds left in the strainer, we added the sauce and our "chunks," which I cut into large dice back to the pot. I left the tomatoes to simmer, stirring occasionally, until it reduced by about half and thickened to the consistency I wanted.

038In the meantime, Sparky cut up an onion (we only used half for 10 lbs of tomatoes, or about 1/2 cup) and minced 4 cloves of garlic.  These were quickly sauteed in a bit of olive oil, and added to the tomatoes.

To finish off,  I sent him outside to pick some fresh basil, which he then minced (no more than 1/4 cup, but we usually wind up with less; I'd say we used about 1/8 of a cup and it was perfectly sufficient.)  and we added it and let it simmer in with the sauce for the last five minutes of cooking.


If you follow the link at the top of the page, you can find out how to can this sauce (it will need a few additions to increase the acidity) but at this point, we're just enjoying it as it is.  10 lbs of tomatoes makes about 4 pints of sauce (a pint serves 3 pretty well) and the recipe is easy to make in larger batches.

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