Late season tomatoes.
Too big, too ugly, too soft. Too many. And really, really cheap.
So: you’ve picked up 20 pounds of super-ripe tomatoes for a song. Now what?
If you like tomato preserves, lucky you – a standard recipe will set you back 10 pounds of tomatoes, and now you only have ten more pounds of tomatoes to get rid of.
If you can them or freeze them, you’ll have to peel them.
But if you have a food mill (I got mine at a yard sale for a buck) tomato sauce is quick and easy, besides being cheaper and better tasting than store-bought.
And – bonus! – you can make good use of the elderly carrots, flaccid celery, odd ends of onions and the ziplock bag of leftover crudites from your last dinner party, awaiting the long, lonely ride to the composter.
There’s no need to peel or seed anything (except the onions). After a long simmer, the food mill sorts it all out for you, leaving behind a heap of fibers, papery tomato skins, and a big pot of smooth, brilliantly red sauce.
Carrots add a little sweetness and enhance the gorgeous tomato-red color of the sauce, the tomato paste dials up the distinctive flavor of fresh tomatoes, and the remaining vegetables add depth and interest. It’s the best tomato sauce you’ll ever use.
And: don’t season the sauce – not even salt. Later you can season it for Italian, Indian, or Latin American dishes – whatever presents itself when you’re ready to cook.
THE BEST EASY TOMATO SAUCE
You’ll need an 8-quart pot, and a food mill.
No need to be too precise with the measurements or the ingredients. As long as you start with 10-pounds of tomatoes, everything else will pretty much fall in line.
If you’re feeling especially lazy, you may skip the part where you soften the vegetables in the olive oil. Omit the olive oil and toss everything except the tomato paste into the pot, then take it from Step 6.
- 10 pounds whole tomatoes, washed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions (14 ounces/400 grams) – peeled and coarsely chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 carrots (8 ounces/225 grams) – scrubbed or peeled, and coarsely chopped
- 2 stalks of celery – scrubbed and coarsely chopped
- 1 bell pepper (any color, any size), washed and seeded, coarsely chopped
- 1 4-ounce can tomato paste
- Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large, 8-quart pot.
- Peel and coarsely chop the onions. Add them to the olive oil, and stir occasionally, cooking for about 5 minutes until they start to become translucent.
- Add the cloves of smashed garlic; stir
- Scrub (or peel) the vegetables and chop coarsely. Stir them into the pot with the garlic and onions.
- Wash and core the tomatoes; chop them into large hunks and add them to the 8-quart pot.
- Bring the tomato-vegetable mixture to a simmer; cover and cook until everything is very, very soft – about an hour.
- Run the tomato mixture through a food mill – the sauce will be watery – then return it to the pot. Stir in the tomato paste.
- Bring the sauce to a boil and cook, uncovered, until it is reduced to a consistency you like.
- Pour into containers, label and freeze.