Thursday, August 23, 2007

Best Tomato Sauce Ever. Yep.

I love that when I ask about new ideas for handling a shit ton of tomatoes people look at me with all seriousness and go, "You know what you should do! You should make sauce!"

You think.

Really.

I think my bitterness comes from having made sauce from the garden tomatoes every year and every year being just *this* much disappointed with how it comes out. Not that it has ever been really bad or anything, but just not all I dream of and more. Always a little too runny or too chunky or not chunky enough or a little bland or what's this green thing or whatever. Never *just right*.

What is *just right*? Who knows. I don't know where these standards came from.

But, to give these people a little credit for their new idea and since it really is the best way to get rid of all the tomatoes before they turn into a big gooey yard mess that I'll have to clean up while crying, I decided this season to give it another go.

Twice.

You know, because the first Try Again was so much fun (read: horrific disaster) that one could only go back to the beginning in order to go in the opposite direction altogether.


Try Again #1 probably would have been fine had I just used the immersion blender in the final steps instead of prying the antique Food Mill attachment from the depths of the cabinet and bolting it on to the front of my mixer.


I'll admit, it was the novelty of using something that my mom had gotten 35 years ago and had quickly stowed away at the back of her own cabinet to never use (sharp, that mom) that allowed me to ignore my inner smart person who was reminding me loudly that this was going to be inefficient, messy, a total pain in the ass and not worth it. Even with all those poignant facts on a constant loud loop in my head, I was still able to blissfully ignore everything and move forward in a haze of delirium which looked a lot like my mom and I cooking together while drinking MGD and talking baseball and not at all like me standing alone in my kitchen yelling swears while red sauce splished and splashed all over the cabinets, counters, sink, floor, me, the dog (she was fine with it).

Which is what totally happened. Right before the stupid Food Mill jammed right up.

Excuse me, but isn't a Mill supposed to Mill things? Shouldn't it just grind up anything it its path and shoot it out the other side?

Apparently I have been misinformed and will have to go consult a better source on precisely what purpose a Mill should serve. (Dictionary says: "machinery that processes materials by grinding or crushing". Um, not always.)

This thing was more like a Food Smoosher. Or a Cabinet Splasher. Or a Big Fucking Mess For No Good Reason Maker.

I'm over it now.

The sauce turned out vaguely delicious. I mean, I'll eat it and it's good and I'll make it again, but next time I'll use the neat and tidy immersion blender (also a nice mom hand-me-down) and avoid the crime scene explosion.

Try Again #2 was much MUCH more successful. To the point where I'm ready to call it quits on ever trying another tomato sauce recipe ever again. Really. It came out that good.

And, guess what else, it was pretty easy and did not require any simmering. I know! That is rad. Our neighbors (our favorite neighbors, in fact, and not because of this recipe although it would be a perfectly good reason) slid this gem into conversation while we were ruminating over just exactly what to do with all the damn produce in our backyards and their farm share. They've been dropping of pints of strawberries, sixers of pretty, pretty brown eggs and heads of lettuce three and four at a time - all the while thanking US for taking it off their hands.

Dude, I told you - rad.

So, you know my ass was all ears (yes) when they said, "Oh, we found this great recipe for tomato sauce and it is SO EASY. And it is also THE BEST tomato sauce you'll ever eat."

Big talk.

I won't lie, I was *this much* skeptical about how good this sauce could actually be. And, important too, how "easy" the recipe really was.

As far as the flavor goes - this is the only tomato sauce (with room for variations that include some spice or cream, etc) I ever want to eat again.

As far as the easiness goes, it's not work-free, but it's also not simmering on my stove for half a day and getting jammed through a faulty food mill, which I will say, is the opposite of easy and pleasant.

At this point, you either want me to stow it OR you want the recipe, so here goes (with my own personal tweaks that make it The Best):

Ingredients:
4-5 large ripe fresh garden tomatoes, sliced into 1" rounds
4 good size fresh basil leaves
1 head of garlic, top chopped off
1/3 cup mellow red wine (we used a yum Cabernet)
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
yum extra virgin olive oil (if you don't want to spoon it into your mouth, find another bottle)

To make:
Preheat oven to 450.

Cover rimmed baking sheet with foil and then drizzle foil with some olive oil, enough to slippery the surface. Place prepped garlic head on a piece of foil and drizzle some oil on there, too - and a bit of salt. Wrap the foil around it into a nice package. Put it in the middle of the baking sheet.

Place your tomato rounds in a single layer on the baking sheet around the garlic. Drizzle all the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Slam it all into the oven for 30 minutes.

Before:
After:

Pull out the food processor and add all the tomatoes (they'll be a bit charred and maybe a little grabby when trying to peel them from the foil - try hard). Unwrap the garlic and squeeze in the cloves (they'll be like paste - it's cool). Add the wine, basil and salt/pepper as you like it.


Puree the whole mess until it's one even consistency and no giant basil bits are jamming around in there.


Toss it with some bulky pasta (we used farfalle, but penne or a great ravioli would be lurvely), meatballs, gnocchi - seriously, whatever. Or just eat it out of the Cuisinart with your damn spoon because it's so good you won't care that you just ate sauce for dinner while standing in the kitchen.

/recipe

Anyway, the reason I know this is The Best is because (aside from my own personal Knowing, which is undeniable) I set it in front of Bubba and when he took one bite he looked at me and said, "That's it. Don't change anything. THIS is it. THIS is what I've been searching for. THIS is what I'm imagining every time I order marinara at a restaurant and THIS is what I never get. I LOVE IT."

There was no hemming or hawing or muted requests to add meat or change it in any way. It was perfect.

This was a big and dramatic moment that required a lot of wine to appreciate fully.

And now I know what I'll do with all these tomatoes.

64 comments:

  1. THANK YOU, JESSICA!!!! I am finding (shockingly) that I can only eat SO MANY BLT's (who knew?) and was looking for good no-peeling-no-deseeding sauce recipes. Awesome!

    And if you have any grape tomato plants EXPLODING like i do, a great way with them is to toss with (again) olive oil, basil, salt and pepper, and then slow-roast in a 200-degree oven for as long as it takes for them to turn caramelized and slightly mushy. DELICIOUS tossed with pasta and some cheese. Can be frozen too.

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    1. If the day comes when I have a surplus of grape tomatoes, I'm totally doing just what you said. NICE.

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  2. Oh that sounds SOOOOO good. I'm going to bookmark this for later use!

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  3. Umm, don't want to step all over your amusing post, but you've been misled. What you used is not a food mill, but a grinder. A food mill is a hand tool with a crank, which puts out the pulp and juice while retaining the seeds and skins. It's very useful with tomatoes (and many other veg) and you should spring for the $6-9 it costs to get one if you've lots of tomatoes. You clean the tomatoes, stick them in a big pot and cook until they soften-- not very long-- then put them through the largest of the several grids provided. The smaller ones will make juice. Then you can use the tomato "passata" to make sauces. It also makes great puree of squashes, potatoes for gnocchi, grape juice, berry juice, etc.

    The roasted tomato sauce is very nice, but pretty darned hard to use up hundreds of pounds of tomatoes.

    Your mum's grinder is good for solids like meat, bread, vegetables that you want ground as some like cabbage for coleslaw. Not tomatoes or anything with a lot of liquid, as you've found out.

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  4. finny,

    i made your sauce tonight and it was FABULOUS. some other ideas: carmelize some onions along with the tomatoes and garlic. also, Cook's illustrated had a great way to roast without killing the pan: put a cooling rack in the pan and cover it with tin foil; therefore the foil doesn't stick to the pan and it also makes it easier to peel the tomatoes off the foil.

    adding some hot pepper flakes in the final twist of the food processor gives the sauce a little zip. Then, take whatever you don't use and freeze it or can it for the winter...yummm!

    amy

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    1. CARAMELIZED ONIONS...YES. HOT PEPPER FLAKES...YES.

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  5. My mouth is watering. Although, I love tomatoes so much (and roasted tomatoes) that I think I would have eaten the tomatoes *before* the sauce was made.

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    1. That happens more often than I care to admit.

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  6. Your sauce sounds delicious! I can't wait to try this roasted version. I have to agree with Judith though..a good food mill does a great job of seperating the skins and seeds from the rest of the tomatoes, my hubby even runs the the stuff through the mill twice. I usually don't like the seeds in my sauce sometimes it makes it bitter.

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    1. You know, I've never had the aversion to seeds that so many people do. For me, the texture is better WITH the seeds. Because I'm a heathen, I imagine.

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  7. You're always so funny -- you might just kill us. Renee Zellweger would have been proud to say "You had me at 'a Big Fucking Mess For No Good Reason Maker' ".

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    1. Oh, Anna - I do try to amuse with my mess making.

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  8. Made this sauce last night! But I don't think my oven is as hot or I didn't leave it in long enough to get the nice browning, and of course I forgot the wine at the store....but still good! and I am picking up the wine to add to it tonight for dinner! Easy recipe!

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    1. Hope your second batch turned out for you. If not...flame thrower?

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  9. Yum, I just made this and it was delicious! I didn't have any wine so I splashed in some balsamic vin and it was quite yummy.

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    1. Oh yeah - totally. Balsamic is a great sub for wine. Though, not so much if you're trying to get drunk. That's just gross and pointless.

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  10. I'm a total copycat, hope you don't mind!
    http://erinco.blogspot.com/2007/08/when-life-gives-you-tomatoes.html

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    Replies
    1. Copy cat shmopy cat - this is the internet - get nuts!

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  11. This is becoming the gardening/cooking blog.
    Not that there's anything wrong with that.
    One of my fav gardening blogs is edge effect. There's a link on my blog.
    In my archives, I posted a tomato sauce recipe on my blog. She (Mary Ann Esposito) also has a "Mad Tomato Sauce" that's super tasty.

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  12. dale in portland9/23/2007 7:43 PM

    I just found your recipe ran to the store for wine and am roasting now. Yesterday I smoked some fresh tomatoes,peppers and onions. I will add to sauce and report back with final results
    thanks...

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  13. I made this sauce last night... Fabulous!!! Perfect! I will definately make this again. Thanks so much!

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  14. Found this recipe today - made it this morning, and hubby insisted we have spaghetti IMMEDIATELY. :)
    Thanks!
    Angela
    http://testosteronepalace.blogspot.com/

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    1. And there you have it. That's kick ass.

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  15. OMG- I made this tonight. It is hands down the ONE. Thank you so much!!! I'm starting to dream up versions with capers and cheese and sausage but with the exact base because it is heaven.

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    1. I just got light headed thinking about it.

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  16. Hi :)

    I found my way here some time ago from our mutual friend, Kelli, and just had to come out from lurking to thank you for this recipie. Amazing! So delicious and fresh. My family (including 2 picky teenagers) inhaled it and keeps asking me to make more.

    Thanks again!

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    1. I have pleased picky teenagers? My work here is done.

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  17. My tomatoes are FINALLY coming in so I'm making this sauce - again. Just wanted to thank you for passing it along last year as it's become my favorite tomato sauce ever.

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    1. I'm totally blushing.

      YOU MADE ME BLUSH.

      ME.

      Well done.

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  18. This is pretty much the best thing that has ever come out of my kitchen. It was awesome! THANK YOU!

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    Replies
    1. Well, then you better keep making it!

      Or, you know, cooking more ;)

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  19. made it last night. delish. many thanks. kiss kiss.

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  20. Hello, came here from "In My Kitchen Garden" because I had to see what was the "best tomato sauce ever." I was pretty sure I was already making the best tomato sauce ever.

    As it turns out, our recipes are similar. I don't use foil, though. I just fill cookie sheets with halved tomatoes and quartered onions and garlic heads and roast them to black edges. Then I put the tomatoes through a nice food mill I got from Lee Valley--it really squooshes the stuff through the screen and when you've run it through a couple of times there's nothing left but skin and seeds.

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    1. And that sounds like an absolutely fabulous way to make a delicious sauce. Which I may try someday when I'm ready to go back into the water with my food mill.

      The quartered onions...I must try this...

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  21. Thank you so much for this most simple but tasty recipe. I found myself spooning the stuff out of the saucepan before serving. Yum yum. Being January, it,s hard to find decent tomatoes so i used smaller vine tomatoes (10) and they worked just fine.

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    1. And you can use canned whole tomatoes in the off months. Just drain them, pat them dry and treat them just like the fresh ones. If you can your summer harvest, you can use those (which is what I do) and it's divine.

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  22. Hey there,

    The reason why you got confused about the food mill is because it is not defined by what you see in a dictionary. Generally, a mill is a grinder...in an industrial sense. But a food mill is more of a strainer. Sure, it will smoosh up something like tomatoes or other soft vegetables, but its main job is to remove seeds, pulp, etc, often from cooked things, such as applesauce. In a way, it is more like a juicer than a grinder or blender, but it lets more stuff thru than a juicer. For some things it is indispensible...and darned hard to find except at a kitchen specialty shop.

    Do keep in mind that a lot of the bitterness in tomato sauce comes from the seeds...hence, the value of a food mill. Of course, the acidity is something else. Unfortunately, while you simmer the sauce to get rid of the acid, if the seeds are left in, you are leaching the bitter principals out into the sauce. Bummer! This idea of roasting the tomatoes seems to get rid of a lot of the sour taste, fairly quickly, that it usually takes hours of simmering to accomplish. And, because it is fairly quick, I suppose you leave the bitter stuff inside the seeds. Very clever.

    By the way, while a pinch of baking soda or sugar is often added to sauces to reduce acidity, I find that sauteing some shaved carrots with the onions is a big help. Even with this roasting method, I would still consider adding those carrots for a hint of sweetness without the artificiality of adding table sugar.

    Thanks for the tips.

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    1. Thank YOU for the tips. Seriously. That is an incredible comment. I stand in awe.

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  23. Wow!! This was great! And so easy. Thanks. I didn't have fresh basil(I know ...my wrists should be slapped) but I put the dried basil in with the garlic and added a little more Olive oil. It softened the basil right up.

    I hope you will have more recipes to share.
    Cheers.
    Laura

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    1. That's a great sub. You can also use a tablespoon or two of prepared pesto in lieu of the fresh basil and it comes out nearly the same. That's what I do in the winter months when all I have is my preserved pesto and canned tomatoes from summer harvests.

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  24. Heh, you said 'nice package'. ;)

    (I just linked to this and I was re-reading it and can't believe that no one noticed that before now.)

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    1. And that is because you are my favorite kind of genius - the kind with a filthy amusing mind.

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  25. This is the best recipe for tomatoes sauce I've ever tried, bar none; we grow numerous backyard tomatoes, and yes one can only eat so many BLTS... my husband is Sicilian American and this sauce--he felt--was far more flavorful than any of the "big pot" methods of yore, not to mention far more time-efficient, fuel efficient and less messy. We used a firm Rose' once in lieu of the bolder Cabernet for the Branydwine sauce and loved it. Thank you for posting this gem.

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    1. I think that is the finest compliment I've ever received with regard to this sauce recipe. Except for maybe Bubba's when he said he would happily be drowned naked in a tub of it.

      He has a weird sense of things.

      Many happy returns to this recipe for you and your saucy hubs!

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  26. you talk too fucking much, learn to cook.

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    1. You comment anonymously. Fuck off.

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    2. Hahahahahahahahaha! I'm sure your sauce is as delicious as it looks. But even if it is the worst sauce ever, I will love it. For this comment alone.

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  27. well well.
    thimbleanna is my blog crush... but YOU, YOU make tomato sauce, and drink while harvesting.
    i picked 100 pounds of tomatoes this morning at my friend's farm. and i'm making my marinara sauce, and now, i'm also making some of YOURS!
    thanks so much!!

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    1. 100 pounds of tomatoes is going to require a lot of cocktails. I hope you're properly prepared ;)

      Also - ENJOY!

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  28. Sounds so good...gotta try it. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Absolutely - hope it serves you well.

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  29. Second time with this recipe, still a big hit at my house. Yep. Thank you so much!

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  30. Non-stick aluminum foil makes the roasting both easy and much less messy!

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    1. Totally 100% agree. I feel guilty using so much foil to line my shitastic rimmed baking sheets but OH the mess savings. It is incredible.

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  31. Hi Finny, I found your blog in a round-about way. Today I was actually reading a blog of "JoeGardner" from 2009 (The $25 Organic Victory Garden Challenge), and your pie recipe was on his last entry. So I had to see your blog page, and it took me to your "list" of tomato uses. I can't wait to try your sauce recipe! Soon I hope. Anyway, I saw you were still posting replys and early as 2 weeks ago, so thought I'd see if you can answer a question for me. I was wondering if I can freeze it in plastic containers for use over the winter? (I don't do canning). Well, I'm glad I found this blog. Keep up the good work! Thanks, Rosie. P.S. I love your "real person" approach at blogging. Its refreshing to know that someone else in cyber space is truly down to earth!

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    1. Hey Rosie - you can totally freeze this sauce for use over the winter. Hell, I even freeze it into individual serving sized zipper bags which is way less fancy than plastic containers. It freezes just fine. Enjoy!

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  32. Just made your sauce. Am eating it now and couldn't help but say THANK YOU for this. I never thought I would have been able to make my own sauce without standing over the stove for hours let alone after a full work day... Love this.

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[2013 update: You can't comment as an anonymous person anymore. Too many douchebags were leaving bullshit SPAM comments and my inbox was getting flooded, but if you're here to comment in a real way like a real person, go to it.]

Look at you commenting, that's fun.

So, here's the thing with commenting, unless you have an email address associated with your own profile, your comment will still post, but I won't have an email address with which to reply to you personally.

Sucks, right?

Anyway, to remedy this, I usually come back to my posts and post replies in the comment field with you.

But, if you ever want to email me directly to talk about pumpkins or shoes or what it's like to spend a good part of your day Swiffering - shoot me an email to finnyknitsATgmailDOTcom.

Cheers.