I recently was given 12 large beefsteak tomatoes. Never wanting to refuse such a beautiful gift, I gladly accepted. Until I realized that I had no idea what to do with them and would never be able to consume them before they went bad. So I started scrambling through recipes and kept coming across a myriad of tomato and pasta sauces. It seems that everyone has “the perfect” homemade recipe!
As much as I hate to admit this… I’ve never tried making my own sauce. And I have to admit that I feel like I’m cheating when I unscrew the pressurized lid of the Ragu jar and hear that familiar pop… and hoping my dinner guests in the other room don’t notice.
So, it’s high time I learned a thing or two about tomato sauce. I am learning that the “takes all day to make” sauce is truly the best kind… but for a quick and easy, and first attempt… I took the short route.
Of course, every recipe I found said that beefsteak tomatoes are not good for sauce… they’re “too acidic” and “too pulpy”. That I should use rich red Roma tomatoes. But never say die… I can make this work! After all, I don’t have Roma tomatoes. I have 12 very large, very ripe, very meaty “maters” that need to become something fast!
I wanted to make a sauce that was completely natural with *no “cans” or “jars” of anything. And I love roasted vegetables… so I decided that roasting the tomatoes would bring a smoky sweetness out of them, and help cut their acidity.
Ingredients (makes 2 quarts)
1 dozen med-large beefsteak tomatoes (or on the vine red tomatoes)
1 large sweet Vidalia onion
6 large garlic cloves
2 Anaheim chilies (seeded)
3/4 cup fresh basil – torn small
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup sherry
2 tablespoons anchovy paste (omit if vegan or vegetarian)
*2 tablespoons tomato paste (if you are making this in the tomato off-season you may need to add tomato paste to enrich the tomato flavor. But if making July-Sept you should be fine without – just taste and decide!)
1 tsp of sugar (to taste)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Cut veggies into large chucks and toss onto a baking sheet that has at least a 1″ rim. Sprinkle in the dried thyme and oregano. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil across it and toss to coat. Put on top rack of preheated oven at 400 degrees. Roast veggies and spices for about 20 minutes until tender and just start to brown at edges and the skins on the tomatoes burst.
Remove tray from oven and scoop vegetables into a large food processor or blender. Or place them straight into the stock pot if you have an immersion blender. Then you can mix it right in the pot. Add 1/2 cup of fresh sweet basil leaves and blend. Once you’ve brought it to a smooth consistency pour it back into the pot. Add the wine, sherry and anchovy paste and let it simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes until it reaches desired thickening and taste. Add remaining chopped fresh basil right before serving.
1) Be sure to pour all the juices from the roasting tray into the blender as well – so much flavor there! If your sauce seems a little thin initially – keep simmering, it should reduce nicely.
2) If you’re having trouble getting your sauce blended well, try straining it to get the little pieces of tomato skin and seeds out. Just keep in mind that these textures are a sign of a homemade sauce and not one that’s been processed to death.
Keep In Mind: Due to the orange-red color of the beefsteak tomato, your sauce is not going to be a deep, rich red as you see in many of the store-bought brands (of course, they also use “enhancements”). If you prefer a more red hue, use peeled Roma tomatoes (or add a few for color). You can also add roasted red bell pepper… which will also add a spicy-sweet note to your sauce.
The Perfect Bite
Seriously, it’s a sauce. You’re gonna have to give me some grace on this one. But do dip a piece of crunchy toast to taste while cooking!
The Perfect Pairing
As you can see in the top photo, I paired this sauce with my homemade ricotta and topped it all on a bed of Fusili pasta (not homemade – yet). I also included some basil from my garden.
I asked my friends at Rumours East for a wine recommendation from their wine list… and here’s what they suggested (be sure to catch their 2 for 1 nights, wine tastings & art shows!):
2006 Villa di Azzano Refosco dal Penduncolo Rosso
“It’s typically a given that Italian foods are paired better with Italian wines, and there is no exception in this case. It’s a full-bodied red, rich and fruitful with hints of plum and almond notes. It delivers a strong, yet not overwhelming acidity level that would compliment the flavor of a homemade red tomato sauce. A good rule of thumb when pairing food and wine is not to overwhelm your taste buds by pairing contrasting acidity levels.
If you can’t get your hands on an exact bottle you are looking for, I would recommend a Zinfandel or a Chianti/Sangiovese. Zinfandels are known to be quite versatile and work well with traditional Italian dishes centered around the tomato.”
The Perfect Health
Typical jars of pasta sauce contain very high amounts of corn syrup (some as high as 25 grams of sugars, per cup!) and preservatives (avg 1100 mg of sodium, per cup!). Most pasta sauce recipes call for using a 6oz can of tomato paste (for thickening)… which still has 21 grams of sugar in it!
Making your own sauce, completely from scratch… makes a significant difference in your sodium & sugar intake. Just using fresh, natural products makes the taste unbelievable too! Per cup, a homemade pasta sauce similar to my above recipe will roughly garner a mere 10 grams of sugars and only 26 mg of sodium! Knowing that’s gonna make it hard to buy ever again.