Tomato season is here!

Carmelized tomatoes and garlic for sauce

Carmelized tomatoes and garlic for fresh tomato sauce

This is may be my favorite season of the year. I simply adore fresh, delicious tomatoes that I only get a few months out of the year. Finally, these beauties have arrived at my local produce market. Now, I stumbled upon them by accident because every time I ask the produce guys about them, they say “no flavor”. Earlier in the morning while shopping at my beloved Berkely Bowl, I found two pound packages of pesticide-free Bella Bites tomatoes for an astonishing low price, $1.89 per box. Instantly I envisioned fresh tomato sauce so I bought three boxes.

Bella Bites tomatoes

Bella Bites tomatoes

Fresh tomato sauce is a freezer staple for me during tomato season. It also makes a terrific host gift. Simply freeze the sauce and keep a few Mason jars from the craft store on hand. Defrost the sauce and gently warm on the stove before filling the jars. Cool uncovered and seal. Wrap the jar with a ribbon and handwrite an ingredient tag. Voila, instant gift that anyone can use.

I use baby tomatoes for sauce because although I’m a professional chef, I’m a lazy at-home cook. I don’t have a lot of time and besides, I was traumatized several years ago when a friend convinced me that I should help him peel, seed, blanche, and chop 50 pounds of San Marzano tomatoes for canning. Never again. 

Fresh Tomato Sauce
6 pounds of rinsed, whole fresh, baby tomatoes. (If you’re using large tomatoes, peel, seed and chop them)
8 whole cloves of garlic cut in half
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Techinique is important in this recipe. The technique is to blister the tomato to release the water, simmer to cook, then increase the heat to reduce the water and slightly carmelize the garlic and tomatoes.

Use a saute pan with sides and not a non-stick pan. You will probably need to make this in batches, I used three saute pans. Divide the oil so that you have enough for the number of pans you’re using. Heat the saute pan over medium high heat and add the oil and some garlic. Try not to carmelize the garlic at this point, just get it golden brown. Add the tomatoes so that you have a single layer and sprinkle with salt. The tomatoes should blister meaning they turn slightly brown. Turn up the heat if necessary. Toss tomatoes so that most are blistered. Turn the heat down to low and let them cook uncovered about 20-25 minutes. Then, increase the heat to reduce the liquid to a syrup that is redish-brown in color.

Once the tomatoes are reduced (not too much you need some liquid), transfer them to a bowl and finish the batches. Transfer the cooked tomatoes to a blender or food processor and process according to your tastes. I like to strain half the batch and keep the other half chunky but still with texture. Cool and place in plastic containers. Placing a piece of plastic wrap on top of the sauce in a jar, pressing out the air, will prevent freezer burn.

Makes about 8 cups of unstrained sauce and about 6 cups strained sauce.

Note: this is a rustic sauce with seeds and skin. For a smooth sauce sauce, strain it through a Chinoise or a wire strainer. Be sure the wire strainer’s holes aren’t so small that you won’t be able to press the sauce through it. Test a small amount first.

This entry was posted in Recipes, Sauces, Dressings, Spreads & Salsas, Vegetables, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.