Tomato season is arriving in the northern hemisphere and come September you will have more tomatoes than you know what to Â do with. Why not put them up in your pantry for the winter months and have summery tomato sauces available throughout the year?
Whole tomatoes and tomato sauces do require the water bath method for canning, but the process is quite simple (detailed canning instructions available online) and the rewards are worth the effort as you will be enjoying this yearâ€™s summer tomatoes until next yearâ€™s season arrives.
A kitchen tangent is in order here to simplify processing vine ripened fresh tomatoes. I discovered the amazing Super Passatutto Velox Universal/ Italian tomatoÂ press over 30 years ago and I am still using it to this day. Itâ€™s an ingeniously designed manual contraption that separates the skin and seeds from the tomato pulp. Simply cut up whole fresh tomatoes and drop them into the feeding bowl on the top of the mill and crank away. The pulp is extruded separately from the seeds and skin. Pass the seeds and skin through the press several times to extract every last bit of the pulp andâ€¦ voila! Your tomatoes are processed and ready to add to your ingredients for a cooked fresh tomato sauce. The Velox tomato press is still available on line from various vendors and well worth the investment if you intend to make summer batches of fresh tomato sauces for canning or making sauces for a large parties. A food mill will essentially do the same thing with a little more effort, but there is something about using the Velox mill that defies explanation. It just produces a better tomato pulp!
Here is a simple recipe for a rustic cooked fresh tomato sauce with an added hint of natural sweetness, smokiness, and some chili heat if you are so inclined.
- 10 whole vine ripened tomatoes + 2 cups vine ripened ripe cherry tomatoes, coarsely chopped and pressed/milled to extract the pulp
- 2 yellow bell peppers + 1 fresh red chili (if using), Â flame roasted and peeled, seeds removed, and pressed/milled along with the tomatoesÂ
Rustic Cooked Fresh Tomato Sauce:
Makes 5 cups/serves 4
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 leeks, peeled down to the soft interior and minced
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- teaspoon dried lemon thyme, crushed
- tomato pulp from 10 large vine ripened tomatoes and 2 cups vine ripened cherry tomatoes
- 2 yellow bell peppers (flame roasted and peeled) pressed/milled with the tomatoes
- 1 fresh red chile (flame roasted, peeled, and seeded) pressed/milled (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt + more to taste when sauce is finished
- fresh ground pepper to taste (if not using chili)
Heat the olive oil in a non-reactive pot over medium low heat. Add the minced leeks and cook for 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and lemon thyme and cook an additional 4 minutes. Add the tomato, yellow pepper, and chile pulp along with their juices and turn the heat down and bring the sauce to a simmer. No need to add additional water! Cook for about 45 minutes until the sauce is reduced by half and quite thick. As this is a rustic sauce there is no need for straining. The flavors and texture give the sauce a hearty rustic appeal.
Serve tossed with freshly cooked pasta glazed with extra virgin olive oil is my preference. The fresh tomato flavor melds deliciously with pasta on its own, but a mild grated cheese or fresh ricotta tossed into the pasta compliments the sauce nicely as well.