Friday, August 5, 2011

Fresh Tomato Sauce from the Garden

One of my most poignant (and prolific) memories of my childhood is the smell of a delicious red sauce ragu slow roasting on the stove for hours on end. The thick tomato sauce would cook down meatballs of beef and pork, perhaps a sausage or two, and if we were really lucky, ox tails! This traditional Southern Italian meal fed us well (and cheaply too) for generations. In my  mind, home is symbolized by a large pot of ragu bubbling away, filling the house with the wonderful smell of canned tomatoes, ground meat, garlic, basil and oregano.

Fresh tomato sauce is a different kind of beast, requiring a different kind of care. After perfecting the recipe over the past two seasons, I've decided that the best way to showcase fresh tomatoes is with a vegetarian version. I use tomatoes that are "on the edge;" too smushy for eating sliced but too good to throw out. 

Here is what you will need:
2.5 - 3 lbs of "on the edge" fresh tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes or 1 teaspoon red pepper powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano

In large metal pot, heat 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil on the stove on low heat. While oil is warming, chop tomatoes into quarters, removing the stems and bottoms. Toss tomatoes in pot and turn up heat to medium and cook for approximately five minutes until tomatoes are soft. Add finely chopped garlic during this period. Stir mixture until well mixed. Add red pepper flakes, salt, sugar, dried basil, and dried oregano. Stir again. Take heat down to a simmer and cook for approximately an hour. Fresh tomatoes are full of water, and to get a fuller flavor, the water must be cooked down and out. Check on the sauce every 20 minutes and stir. After an hour on the stove, the sauce will need 30- 45 minutes to cool. Remove from heat and cover with clean dish cloth. After cooling period, puree sauce with a stick blender, food processor, or regular blender. Store in fridge for up to a week or freeze for up to 6 months.

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