Fresh tomato sauce
I start making this sauce at the moment plum tomatoes appear at my local farmers’ market in midsummer, and I keep making it until they finally leave the stage in October. There is simply nothing like sugo di pomodoro made with good, ripe plum tomatoes. I always make and freeze a few extra batches to get me through the winter. A few years ago, in Four Seasons Pasta, a wonderful book by Janet Fletcher, I learned an interesting technique for preparing the tomatoes. It calls for cutting them in half and grating them against the large holes of a box grater. It works beautifully and produces a lovely fine pulp that requires no additional milling. I prefer it to blanching, peeling, and chopping the tomatoes, which I find is just as laborious, plus the blanching can make the tomatoes mushy.
Portions: Makes 3 to 31-2cups-720 to 840 ml, enough to dress 1 lb-455g pasta
- 2 1/2 to 3 lb 3 lb-1.2 to 1.4 kg plum tomatoes
- 2 large cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 1/4 cup 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher or fine sea salt
- 5 large fresh basil leaves, shredded or torn
Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with your fingers (I do this over the sink). Place a box grater on a cutting board with a moat to catch the tomato juice as you grate. Hold the cut side of a tomato flat against the large
holes of the grater and grate the tomato, pressing it gently, until only the skin is left in your palm. Continue until you have grated all the tomato halves. As you work, transfer the pulp to a glass or stainless-steel bowl to prevent too much from accumulating on the cutting board. Warm the garlic in the olive oil in a large saucepan placed over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to press down on the garlic to release its flavor and then swirl the pan to infuse the oil. After about 2 minutes, when the garlic begins to sizzle and release its fragrance but before it starts to brown, carefully pour in the tomatoes (the oil will spatter) and stir to coat them with the oil. Season with 1 tsp salt, raise the heat to medium high, and bring the tomatoes to a simmer. When the juices start bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low and let the tomatoes simmer uncovered, stirring from time to time, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until thickened to a nice sauce consistency. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, if you like.
The sauce may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Fresh tomato sauce with onion and butter variation:
Omit the step of sautéing the garlic in the olive oil, and instead sauté 1 minced small yellow onion in 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tbsp unsalted butter for 8 to 10 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the tomatoes and proceed as directed. Finish with the basil and an additional 1 tbsp butter.