Cooking tomatoes increases the antioxidant properties. Also, tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, which is essential for bone health. They are filled with vitamin C and they’re low calorie. Plus, a good tomato sauce is delicious and can be used in any number of ways.
It’s very easy but it takes some time.
We always use Pomi Tomatoes in the cardboard containers. They are consistent in their quality and they have no ingredients other than tomatoes.
* If you’re a purist and you want only fresh tomatoes, good for you. (If you live in New Jersey and it’s always summer and you don’t mind spending a few hours blanching and peeling a zillion tomatoes) For the record, we’ve done it. Not worth it.
We usually use the chopped ones. The strained ones are good for small batches and can be done quickly (about half an hour) but you have to stay on top of it because they burn quickly too.
For a 26 oz package, we use 2 sweet onions. And we usually make a big batch with 4 boxes of tomatoes and 6-8 onions. (It freezes nicely and you’ll be happy to have it readily available)
- Chop the onions into pieces about the size of your thumb nail. (Without tips, ladies). If the onions bother your eyes a piece of bread in your mouth is supposed to help.
Here comes the only part that’s a little bit of a hassle. Caramelize the onions. To caramelize onions you need fat, low heat and time. We like olive oil. It’s neutral in flavor.
- Cover the surface of a large skillet with oil. You don’t need it to be deep but you need full coverage.
- Heat the oil. If you’re not sure how to judge the temp, stick your hand under running water and flick some drops into the oil. When it beads, it’s hot. Do not let it smoke. If it does you have to toss it out. It’s burned.
- When the oil is hot, add the onions. It should make a sizzling sound. Then lower the heat. The onions will turn clear, then golden brown. Stir them every 7 min, or so. If you over stir, they take longer. If you don’t stir, they burn. So keep an eye on them. This will take about 35 min. But it’s really worth it.
- Once they’re done, stir them into the tomatoes in a large pot.
- Bring it to a simmer for 2-4 hours. Stir it every half hour. Leave it uncovered.
- Reduce it by about half depending on the consistency that you like. We like to make it pretty thick if we are using it right away. If we are freezing it we leave it a little thinner to reduce later with more ingredients. As soon as you’re happy with the texture, you’re done.
Now you can be creative.
- Take a quart and add some beef. This is when you want the thinner one. Just throw in a pound of ground beef and simmer it until the beef is cooked. Garlic, basil and Parmesan are good additions. A quick pour of cream (around a quarter of a cup) makes it feel decadent.
- Sausage and peppers are another good choice. Brown the sausage before you add it. You don’t have to cook it through. Just sear it. Soften the peppers in the fat from the sausage before you add them.
- Use the sauce as is or with additions over pasta or polenta.
- Add spice. Or meatballs. Or lobster. Or crab.
You can make it different every time.
Use the thinner version to baste a brisket and people will beg for your recipe.
On stuffed cabbage.
As sauce on chicken or eggplant Parmesan. The good news is that you can skip the breading and frying if you have a thin cutlet and a good sauce. Bake it and add a slice of mozzarella at the end. Sprinkle it with Parmesan and broil it for a few minutes until it’s golden. You’ll skip more than half the calories and very little flavor. (It won’t have the crunch though)
We’ve used the thicker sauce on pizza dough with great results.
If you make your own sauce, you will never go back to a store bought jar.
Enjoy your tomato sauce.