Cooking Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce

I can’t think of many ingredients more versatile than simple tomato sauce. It’s one of those things you always need and it’s one of the easiest things to make your own.

For my own stuff at home, I do mine in a slow cooker, so that’s what this recipe will assume, but this technique works really well in a pot on the stove, too.

First – Pick Up Some Tomatoes

This is sort of a more complex issue than you’d think, since the tomatoes you pick decide how you’re going to cook them.

The thing is, tomatoes’ skins can be really bitter, and if they are, that’ll change the flavour of your sauce in ways you may not want. When they’re bitter, I take the extra step of skinning the tomatoes and when they aren’t bitter, I just skip the process. It’s not difficult to skin tomatoes, but it does take some time.

Overall, you probably want either Roma (aka Plum) or vine-ripened tomatoes. Those big ugly heritage ones, the monster beefeaters and the pale, pathetic hothouse varieties will work, too, but they won’t give you the best results. Yellow and orange tomatoes make fantastic sauce, as the pictures should show.

Second – Assemble Your Tools and Ingredients

5 – 8 pounds of fresh tomatoes
1 onion (optional)
1 head of garlic (optional)
Herbs and spices (optional)

1 slow cooker or medium pot
1 immersion blender
1 medium pot (if skinning)
1 slotted spoon (if skinning)
1 large bowl (if skinning)

Third – Prep the Tomatoes

If you’ve got tomatoes with nice, thin sweet skins consider yourself lucky. Your prep work consists of cutting out the stem core from the tomatoes and cutting the tomatoes into chunks. Skip the rest of this section and move along.

Skinning tomatoes is way easier than you think it’s going to be. My daughter used to help me when she was tiny, and the two of use could skin a ten pound batch of tomatoes in less than twenty minutes. Getting organized is the key to success here.

Half fill a medium pot with water and bring to to a full boil. Three quarter fill a large bowl with the coldest water you can find. While the big pot is coming to a boil, cut out the stem core from all the tomatoes and cut an X through the skin at the opposite end of each tomato.

Once the water is up to a rolling boil, drop a half dozen tomatoes into the pot. Keep an eye on them, because they won’t be in the boiling water for very long. As soon as you see the skins start to peel and curl around the X , use the slotted spoon to drop them into the bowl of ice water. Let them soak in there while you put six more into the boiling water. When first of your the tomatoes are cool enough to pick up, grab them one by one and tear the skins off. The skins should almost fall off. If the skins are hard to remove, give the next batch a bit longer in the boiling water. Toss the skins in the compost and drop the tomatoes into the pot or the slow cooker.

Four – Cook the Sauce

Just about anything I make using tomato sauce has garlic and onions in it, so I cook them right into the sauce. If you want to do the same, just skin and chop up some of each and put it into the pot. Put the prepped tomatoes in the pot, dump in some salt, and turn on a low heat. Put the cover on the pot and go do something else for a couple of hours.

When you come back to your sauce, it should be starting to darken and the tomatoes should be starting to fall apart. Grab your immersion blender (aka the boat motor) and start pureeing the sauce. Leave it chunky if you like it that way, make it to a fine sauce or anywhere in between. Taste the sauce and add salt or spices to your taste.

Depending on how you like your sauce and how ‘wet’ the tomatoes were, you may want to reduce the sauce down a bit. If your sauce is too runny for you, just leave the lid off the pot and increase the heat a bit. Cranking it right up and watching it bubble is a fast way to reduce it, but risks burning it, so take your time and just ramp up the heat by a notch or two. I’ve found that a long slow cook yields a much better sauce anyway.

Cooking Tomato Sauce
Cooking Tomato Sauce

Five – Enjoy!

When the sauce looks and tastes right, go for it! It’s great over pasta or as the base for anything you can imagine. I put batches of a cup or so in freezer bags in the freezer for easy dinners. You can also pack it up in sterile jars but be careful about storing it at room temperature, as the acidity of tomato sauce isn’t usually high enough to prevent bad stuff from growing in there.