Get ’em while you can…
Before tomatoes are gone for the season, do yourself a favor (you’ll thank yourself in a few months when you are longing for that delicious tangy-sweet tomato flavor and all you can find in the stores are red globe-shaped styrofoam replicas masquerading as tomatoes) and buy a big huge bag of fresh ripe tomatoes. Make a pot of tomato sauce, a relaxing Sunday afternoon activity, which you can then freeze and use in hearty winter pasta dishes when you’d rather be curled up at home than out in the freezing rain.
This is the kind of sauce that you almost don’t need a recipe to make. It’s versatile, flexible, and very forgiving. What you add to it is largely a matter of taste. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever made the same sauce twice. But I do use the following recipe as a starting point. What ends up in the sauce largely depends on what is in my fridge or pantry at the time, whether it’s the simple basic all-purpose sauce here or includes such embellishments as roasted red bell pepper; fresh oregano, thyme or basil; dried red chile flakes, minced garlic, roasted garlic, mushrooms, or zucchini.
You can also use virtually any kind of tomato–heirlooms, beefsteaks, plum tomatoes, or whatever type you can get your hands on. So make your way to the nearest farmers’ market, or beg your co-worker for the rest of his tomatoes that he’s always handing out in the office, and get that sauce made before delicious fresh ripe summer tomatoes are gone for another year.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
About 40 ripe medium tomatoes
1 large yellow onion
1 or 2 medium carrots
2 or 3 stalks celery
Salt and freshly ground pepper
To blanch and peel the tomatoes, fill a large stockpot 2/3 full of water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Cut a small “x” in the bottom of each tomato. Carefully add about a third of the tomatoes to the boiling water, let simmer for about 20 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Blanch the remaining tomatoes in this way.
Peel the tomatoes, discarding the skins, then cut in half crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. Roughly chop the tomatoes and set aside.
Dice the onion, carrots, and celery.
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, warm a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and saute until they begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and about 2 teaspoons salt and some pepper. Saute until tender and the onions start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, a few glugs of wine, reduce the heat to low, and partially cover the pot.
Let simmer until tender and saucy, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. At this point you can leave the sauce chunky…
…or you can puree it with an immersion blender (which is the way I like it).
To store the sauce, let it cool completely, then divide it between freezer bags or other storage containers and freeze.