Heirloom Tomato Sauce for Freezing
This year, I planted 17 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in my garden and despite six heat waves and several scorching 100+ degree days, my crop has been abundant. I have been able to share tomatoes with neighbors and have had plenty for making tomato sauce, too.
When I first started making tomato sauce, my recipes were always strictly by the books. I only used plum tomatoes that were carefully blanched and peeled and eventually, I even used a fancy Italian strainer to separate the skins from the juice and pulp.
I must admit, those sauces were as tasty as the famous cookbooks proclaimed. As I became more interested in gardening and grew more and more heirloom tomato varieties each year, I decided to experiment with tomato sauce, too.
I discovered that using a mix of tomato varieties produces sauce with richer flavor. I use Black Krim, Orange Woodle, Hartman Yellow Gooseberry, Japanese Black Trifele, Isis Candy, Amish Paste, Garden Peach, Dutchman, Riesentraube, Reigart, and Dixie Golden Giant just to name a few.
If you do not have these varieties, you can still make delicious sauce and I am not suggesting that you gather this exact blend! They key is to use local, vine-ripened tomatoes. They will have more flavor than anything you find at the supermarket. If you have a few types of tomatoes in your garden, then use that mix or visit your local farmers’ market to take advantage of the varieties they offer.
Another detour I took from traditional sauce recipes is that I eliminated the process of pressing and straining the tomatoes. Why waste all of the flavor, fiber, and nutrients in the skins? Now, I simply wash the tomatoes; remove the stems and tough cores; and dice them.
The end result is a healthier sauce that is brimming with wonderful, rich flavor. I like the sauce’s texture more and truly think it tastes better.
This recipe is my basic tomato sauce recipe. I make two or three pots of it each summer and freeze it in 2.5 cup freezer containers. I add two cups of sauce to each container, which allows ample room for expansion in the freezer.
You will notice one vital ingredient that is missing from this recipe: the cheese. I add pecorino romano or parmesan cheese the day I am serving the sauce rather than during the long simmering process. It does not matter when you add the cheese; but if you add it while it is simmering all day, then you need to stir the sauce more frequently to prevent burning.
Also, I add other vegetables like peppers and mushrooms when I reheat the sauce. I prefer the texture of these vegetables when they are added at the last moment and find that the freezer alters them too much for my preference. Another reason to add them later is to eliminate the challenge of differentiating plain tomato sauce from mushroom or pepper tomato sauce in the freezer (yes, I suppose one could label it!).Savory Heirloom Tomato Sauce
- 10 quarts diced tomatoes
- 2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
- 2 heads garlic, pressed
- 3 TBS olive oil
- 24 oz. tomato paste
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh oregano
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup chopped flat Italian parsley
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
Yield: 13, 2-cup servings (26 cups)
Wash, core, and dice enough tomatoes to fill a large stockpot with 10 quarts of tomatoes. Use stainless steel cookware to minimize the chances of ingredients sticking to the bottom of the pot. Heat on high until boiling and then reduce the heat to low. While the tomatoes are simmering, clean and chop the onions. (I like to puree the onions in a blender with some juice from the tomatoes, but you may prefer to finely chop them instead.) Add the onions to the tomatoes.
Add the olive oil to a small sauté pan. Clean the garlic and press the cloves (with a handheld garlic press) into the olive oil. Heat over medium to high heat until the garlic sautés and turns lightly golden for about three minutes. Do not allow it to brown. Add the garlic and olive oil mixture to the tomatoes.
Add the salt and pepper to the tomatoes and simmer uncovered on low for about six hours; stirring the sauce at least once every 30 minutes. After six hours, stir in the tomato paste, red wine, and fresh herbs. Simmer on low another 30 minutes. At this point, the excess water from the tomatoes should have evaporated and the sauce should be thick.
Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool. When cooled to room temperature, ladle the sauce into freezer containers and freeze.
To serve, simply defrost and reheat. Add some freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese and serve over hot pasta. Buon Appetito!