I was lucky enough to grow up with a genuine Italian grandma. My mother’s mother was born and raised in Italy. Most of my memories of her revolve around the kitchen. I followed her around like a puppy whenever she cooked, and I can’t remember her ever serving anything that wasn’t amazing. She bought premade things from the store so rarely, and I always try to emulate that.
Which brings me to today’s culinary adventure – homemade tomato sauce. I call it Simply the Best for that exact reason – there is no better alternative out there (outside of Italy, anyway). It’s easy to make, chock full of fresh vegetables, and it’s so darned good. I rarely toot my own horn when it comes to food, but this is something that people beg me for whenever I make it. Jars never last long when I’m making sauce.
I always buy my sauce ingredients at the local farmer’s market. Horrock’s, for those of you familiar with Michigan. The produce is spectacular, and it’s a fraction of what you will pay in the grocery store. Plus, going there is always an adventure. You never know what you might find.
The second best part of this recipe (the first being the taste of course) is that you get SIXTY servings of tomato sauce at about 20 cents each. That’s a total of twelve dollars. You could buy a jar of Prego for about three dollars, and that gives you enough sauce for six people. OR you could use this recipe and feed six people for a dollar and twenty cents. It’s a no brainer.
Let me tell you a little bit about what you’ll be working with.
Tomatoes: Using the right tomato is incredibly important. Plum/Roma tomatoes are your sauce tomatoes. They yield the most sauce and the most flavor.
Herbs: The fresher, the better. I grow my own herbs and dry them. You’ll also notice that I haven’t given you measurements for these. That’s because YOU know what YOU like in your sauce. Some want more salt, more pepper, more oregano. That’s the beauty of making your own. Add some, taste it, and decide what would make it better. And, of course, I can’t give away ALL of my secrets – nobody would want to come over for dinner anymore if they could make it themselves! 😉
Wine: My wine of choice for making sauce is Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the perfect blend of dry and sweet and goes beautifully with the tomatoes. However, Chianti is also a delicious choice. My only guidance would be to steer clear of the sweeter wines – they tend to overpower the sauce. Again, no measurements. My guide for adding wine is to cover the vegetables and go from there.
I know you’ll love this sauce!
Simply the Best Tomato Sauce
Makes 60 ½ cup servings.
15 pounds plum tomatoes
2 pounds carrots
2 pounds celery
2 cloves of garlic
2 white onions
One bottle of red wine
Fresh herbs – oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary.
Ready for this amazing culinary adventure? We’ve got some prep work to do, so let’s start there.
Roasting Garlic: It may seem silly, but roasting your garlic before adding it to the sauce will make an incredible difference. Slice the top off both cloves of garlic and wrap them in tin foil with a touch of olive oil. Roast them in the oven at 300 degrees for one hour. It’ll turn the cloves into a paste-like consistency. Set them aside to cool. Once cooled, squeeze the garlic out of the head.
Peeling Tomatoes: This is the most time consuming, but necessary. Rinse all of your tomatoes, and then remove the cores. After coring them, make an X on the end you’ve just removed the core from. This will help the skin be easily steamed off. Next, prepare a mixing bowl with ice water and as much ice as you can fit in it. Bring a separate pot of water to a boil – make sure it is REALLY boiling. Place a few tomatoes in it and leave them in for about 90 seconds. You don’t want to leave them in TOO long but you want to see the skin starting to peel and crack.
Once you take the tomatoes out of the boiling water they will immediately go into the ice bath, which will cause the skins to shrivel and peel right off. All you’ll need to do is rub your thumb over the skin and it’ll come away.
Peel all those tomatoes!
Salt: Salt is your friend in making sauce. It’s really hard to go overboard. Every time you add an ingredient to the pot, add a pinch of salt as well. Trust me on this.
Time: The best sauce is the kind that simmers for three or four hours. The longer the better.
Now, we’re ready to make some sauce!
- Heat a large stock pot to medium and cover the bottom with olive oil. Add in your chopped celery, carrots, and onion. They don’t have to be cut perfectly – they’ll cook down. Add a pinch of salt and one tablespoon of sugar. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables for 30 an hour.
- Add the roasted garlic and a pinch of salt and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the wine (about a 1/3 of the bottle) and cook it down with the vegetables. Add a pinch of salt! Cook for about half an hour.
- Add the tomatoes, and 1/4 cup of sugar… and a punch of salt. Take the lid off and start simmering. The pot will be really full at first but the tomatoes will cook down easily. Use a spoon to press them down occasionally.
- Simmer and wait. After about two hours, the tomatoes should fall apart and the vegetables should be very soft. Use an immersion blender to begin blending into a uniform sauce.
- Add your herbs (and the salt!)
- After four hours, you’ll be rewarded with a thick, beautiful pot of amazing sauce. Serve it up for dinner and can the rest. It keeps easily in the freezer.
Look at this! It’s beautiful, right?
Now get yourself to your local market and get cracking!