Wintertime Tomato Sauce

February 24th, 2009  |  Published in All, Garlic, Onion, Succulent Spices, Tomatoes, Veritable Vegetables, Weeknight Recipes  |  7 Comments

Tomatoes at the San Carlos Farmer’s Market
Tomatoes from the San Carlos Farmer’s Market back in the summer

Wintertime Tomato Sauce

2 T. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. salt
1 t. red pepper flakes
28 oz. can diced tomatoes

Heat olive oil in a 2 qt pot over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic, and saute until the onions start to relax and the garlic takes on a little bit of color, about 7 minutes.  Add salt and red pepper flakes and mix well.  Add tomatoes, still well, and bring mixture to a gentle boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Enjoy!

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Let’s face it — fresh tomatoes you buy in the grocery store during the wintertime are awful.  They’re usually shipped in from factory farms in far off lands, and more often than not have a mushy, mealy texture, and a color closer to salmon than the glorious deep red of summer tomatoes from the farmer’s market (or if you’re one of the lucky ones, from your garden).  I am going to go ahead and say it — yuck.

But just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that I don’t want homemade tomato sauce… During the summer it’s easy to make homemade tomato sauce — a few fresh tomatoes, some roasted onions and garlic, salt, pepper… chop, mix, heat, simmer — and you have delicious and simple tomato sauce.  But what to do in winter?  My first instinct is to say, ‘preserve in summer, eat in winter’… but my life is such that making huge batches of tomato sauce during the summer and using it throughout the year isn’t really feasible.  For one, I just made a trans-atlantic move, and shipping quarts of homemade tomato sauce (though a tempting idea) didn’t make a lot of sense.  Also, before that, my apartment was approximately 520 square feet (shared with Steven and our cat Fluppha), so storage for more than a few jars of my favorite homemade lemon marmalade or elderberry preserves was non-existent.

So what to do?  For my answer I turn to canned tomatoes.  Surprisingly better than you would expect, with canned tomatoes you can make a homemade sauce coming in somewhere around 7 – 7.5, where store-bought sauce is typically a 3 – 4, and homemade summertime sauce is in the 9 – 10 range.  If you start with high quality canned tomatoes, you will end up with a tasty, nearly from scratch sauce that is great for a lot of things — spaghetti, lasagne, pizza topping, base for tomato soup, etc — with only about 10 minutes of work.

Tonight we finished up the last of the latest batch (one batch is about four servings, or two meals for two people).  Tonight it was a topping for plain spaghetti, served with garlic bread (knoblauch brot) on the side.  Delicious and simple.  And a little spicy!

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