One of the spécialités de la maison in my house has always been my homemade tomato sauce. Inspired by several different family recipes — my mother’s, my father’s, my ex-grandmother-in-law’s, and one of my best friend’s — my sauce has become known far and wide as being magnificent, if I do say so myself.
Sometimes I make them with canned puréed tomatoes, but in the late summer and early fall, when tomatoes are in season, I usually start with actual San Marzano plum tomatoes.
The first thing you do is boil them in water. This is to soften them up so you can run them through the tomato press. The tomato press is THE BEST INVENTION EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. See, in order to make tomato sauce, you have to extract the pulp of the tomato from the skins and the seeds. This can be a very lengthy and laborious and difficult process — unless you have a tomato press.
Once the tomatoes are softened up, you put them in the press and crank it through. The tomatoes are smushed against a screen. The liquidy parts come out on the left and the seeds and skin come out in the front. You run that pulp through a few more times while you’re at it.
That liquidy goodness gets dumped into a big pot, but before you even do that, you line the bottom of that pot with olive oil and garlic. If you’re lazy or pressed for time, you can use minced garlic, which I’ve done, but sometimes you want fresh, and I had some superb garlic from the local farmer’s market, so I chopped that up. I also used a really smooth olive oil from that same farmer’s market.
Anyhow, you dump the tomato goop on top of that. And then you add the spices.
We were fortunate in that we had some fresh basil and thyme from a friend’s garden. In our old apartment, we had a patio garden on which we grew tomatoes and several of the spices for my sauce, but due to various bits of construction work (on the house next door last year, on our own back yard and garage this year), we haven’t been able to put together a new garden in our current place, but we should be able to next year. Meanwhile, thanks to Arwen for the basil and thyme; I ran the former through the Cuisinart, and Wrenn extracted the latter from its stems.
The other spices were from the cabinet: marjoram, oregano, black pepper, red pepper, white pepper, sea salt, rosemary, sage, cumin, allspice, and bay leaves. The proportions vary — five bay leaves, five bits of allspice, a little bit of cumin and sage, a slightly bigger bit of black and red pepper, a lot of white pepper, salt, and marjoram (and thyme), and a crapton of oregano (and basil).
That all gets dumped into the pot with the tomato goop, olive oil, and garlic. Then you put the pot on the stove on high and stir it a lot until all the spices are mixed in. Once it comes to a boil, you put it on simmer, and let it stay simmering for, um, a while. I’ve got something on the order of 16 pounds of tomatoes, which is a lot, which also means it needs to cook down for a very long time.
That, by the way, is the color you want your sauce to be.
Should be ready this evening in time for dinner. Will let you know how it is……….