It’s a situation in which nearly every gardener can relate. A few tomato plants get put in the backyard, and pretty soon your whole dining room counter is filled with the red fruit. A couple days later, after more tomato sandwiches than you ever wanted to eat, you’re left with a table full of juice. It’s a juice that continues to seep out of those backyard beauties, which are all too quickly turning into tabletop compost. If you’re like me, you’re wondering if it’s possible to get an ulcer in your stomach if you keep stomaching them on a daily basis. But then again, the thought of eating another one seems hard to fathom when you’re wallowing in the smell of decay.
A trip to the garden won’t do you much better. There’s a few red ones ready for picking. But there’s also a truckload of shriveled, brown ones giving away to the ground. You’re drowning in a sea of rotten tomatoes.
Now, in the perfect world, this would never happen. Your mom, (or grandma/grandpa/dad if you have disposition to cooking with your mom) would be over canning up those tomatoes of yours, along with the rest of the veggies you’ve managed to yield. Oh, and she’d have a peach pie in the oven too, just waiting for when you returned home from work.
Well, unless you have some kind of golden family, you know this picture probably isn’t happening. But that doesn’t mean you should let all of your fruits go to waste. While I’d love to get into canning, I simply haven’t. My excuse? Lack of time. It’s a bad excuse, but I do make the time to cook up tomato sauce, which you should do too. Your freezer is awaiting.
There’s simply nothing more tomato-heavenly than homemade pasta sauce. The intensely acidic, yet sweet flavor that fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes create makes homemade sauce seem almost as rich as a cream sauce, yet obviously without all of the fat and calories. A good sauce will make you want to eat it straight from the pan, no noodles required. But of course, noodles are always the perfect accompaniment. This sauce pairs especially well with whole wheat pasta because the acidity and herbiness it contains. If you prefer a sweeter marinara, add a teaspoon or two of sugar. Otherwise, let the tomatoes speak for themselves.
You’ll need to map out several hours of cooking time, but it’s truly worth the wait. Plus, once you’ve assembled everything in the pot, you can pretty much let it simmer away and fragrance your kitchen while you get to work elsewhere in your house. Simply give the sauce a stir from time to time as you move in and out of the kitchen to catch a sniff.
If you’ve got one of those counters that’s filling up with tomatoes, double the recipe. After the sauce cools, divide the sauce into freezer containers and freeze for a taste of summer all year around.
Slow-cook Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce
-2 1/2 cups onion (1 jumbo onion), diced
-5 cloves garlic, minced
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-18-20 medium tomatoes, (10-12 cups)
-1/2 to 3/4 packed cup fresh basil, chopped
-1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
-1/4 cup fresh oregano
-2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. pepper
In a large pot (6-8 quarts), heat oil over medium high. Add onions, stir, and then add garlic. Saute over medium heat until transluscent.
Meanwhile, dice tomatoes. Add to pot, discarding extra juice and seeds that flow out of tomatoes and onto the cutting board. Bring up to temperature, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Stir in salt, pepper, and herbs.
Let simmer, uncovered, for 4 hours, or until sauce reaches desired consistency. Adjust seasonings, to taste.