You Say Tomato, I Say Let’s Make Sauce

I am not creative when it comes to food. I pretty much live by the myriad of cookbooks that litter the top of my fridge. I’m grateful to all of those adventurous cooks who write them and I admire them for that. I can make simple things without looking at these books, but I rarely venture out and try something on my own without being prompted to do so. Case in point—Lydia told me she signed us up for Vegan MoFo and my brain went blank. Now I have to get creative. So when the opportunity presented itself, I ordered 25 pounds of plum tomatoes from our CSA and decided to make my own sauce for the first time.  So you, dear reader, get to see the fruits of my labor (no pun intended).

Fresh plum tomatoes.
Fresh plum tomatoes.

Stuff you’ll need: about 7 or so pounds of tomatoes, a head of garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh and dried herbs, onions, carrot, celery, red wine (or vegetable stock), aluminum foil, a large pot, an immersion blender, some large bowls, and containers in which to store your sauce.

  1. Get yourself some amazing tomatoes. You really don’t want to use the same tomatoes for sauce that you would use for slicing. You’re looking for tomatoes with fewer seeds. San Marzano and plum work really well for this recipe.
  2. Roast yourself a big hunk of garlic. Really, I hope you’re not afraid of garlic. Because you need some for this recipe. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, tear off a piece of aluminum foil wrap, take a head of garlic and chop just enough off so you can see the individual cloves. Pour some olive oil, salt, and pepper over it. Don’t bother to peel it. Wrap it up and toss it in the oven for 40 minutes. If you’re so inclined, roast more than a head. Your home will smell amazing.
Head of roasted garlic. Yum!
Head of roasted garlic. Yum!
  1. Get your mirepoix together. That’s onion, celery, and carrots. This is your flavor base for your sauce. I used one large white onion, two celery stalks, and one large carrot. Try to chop them evenly so they cook evenly. Put everything aside until Step 9.
  2. Find the largest pot you can and rinse it out. Then fill it about 2/3 full of water and cover it. You’ll want to bring it to a boil because you have to take the skins off of your tomatoes. This entails boiling them for about 30 seconds. More on that later.
  3. Start cleaning up your tomatoes. They need to be cored—get that white part out of the center—and then scored on the end. The scoring helps because when they are boiling you’ll see the skin peel back and you’ll know they are ready to remove from the water.
  4. Once the water is boiling, get another bowl and put some ice and cold water in it. Then put about half of your tomatoes in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Once you see the skin starting to peel back, remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and put them into the ice water. I did this in two batches. It was easier to boil, ice, and peel half of the batch and then do it again without fear that the first ones would overcook and get mushy.
  5. After you’ve put the cooked tomatoes in the ice bath for a few minutes, start peeling the skins off and transferring them to another bowl. Then repeat the process.
  6. Once all the tomatoes have been skinned, you’ll want to cut them up into smaller pieces.
Cooking down the sauce.
Cooking down the sauce.
  1. Now you can cook your mirepoix from Step 3. Put about 2 Tablespoons (or less) of olive oil in a stockpan and heat it up over low heat. Then throw in your mirepoix and continue to cook it over low heat until the onions are translucent. That’s right, just sweat the vegetables. You can add a little salt here if you’d like (maybe ¼ teaspoon). Remember the garlic you roasted? Squeeze the cooked cloves into a small bowl, removing the skins, and then add the garlic to your vegetable mixture.
  2. If you’re so inclined, add a little sugar. This helps to bring out sweetness in your vegetables, but is certainly not required.
  3. What is required is some red wine. You’ve purchased some vegan red and now you’ll pour nearly half of it into your pot of vegetables. If you’ve already had a drink of two and don’t have half a bottle, add what you’ve got. If you’re not a wine drinker, you may want to add some stock if you have it on hand. A concentrated flavor added here will add to the overall flavor of your sauce.
  4. Now reduce the liquid. You need to cook down the wine by about 2/3.
  5. Add your tomatoes and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add a little more salt (¼ teaspoon) and some herbs if you’d like (I added rosemary and oregano). The dried herbs are more concentrated so you’ll get more flavor; but if you have fresh herbs, add them!
  6. Use an immersion blender to cut down the tomatoes to the consistency you enjoy. I like my sauce chunkier but you have the control here.
  7. Bring the sauce to a boil and then simmer it on low heat for about an hour and a half.

Once the sauce has cooled, you’ll want to store what you’ll in a few days in the fridge and then freeze the rest. You should have lots of sauce to last you into the cooler months.

The finished product.
The finished product.

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