Monday, September 14, 2009

Simple Tomato Sauce (Salsa di Pomodori) Redux

Inspired by this morning's harvest of the last of the tomatoes from my garden here in south -eastern Pennsylvania I decided to re-post (with edits) this post from last year. -BdG

I learned to make this sauce thirty ago from Helen Federico, (Scroll down to "1943") a dear friend whose cooking skills are equaled only by her talent as a parent, illustrator and graphic designer. In those days Helen only made this sauce during the last week of August or the first week of September -the end of the growing season for tomatoes in lower NY State- when she would buy a couple of bushels from local growers and put the sauce up en masse.

Although it is cheapest and most satisfying to make this sauce from fresh tomatoes, it can also be made with good canned San Marzano tomatoes or their equivalent.

Equipment needed
Deep 2qt+ pot
Potato masher (For canned tomatoes: I hate cutting up canned tomatoes)
Blender or even better, an Immersion Blender

Cooking time
About 10-15 minutes
  • 2- 35oz (#20) cans of whole plum tomatoes or 4 lbs fresh ripe plum tomatoes cut into 1/4's
  • 4-6 oz good olive oil
  • 5-6 med cloves of garlic, sliced up crudely (it's going into a blender so who cares what it looks like?)
  • 12 leaves of fresh basil (you can use less, no big deal)
  • Salt to taste or approx. 1/2 tsp
  • Pepper to taste
Heat the oil just hot enough to smell it. Throw in the garlic and let it cook for a minute or two but for god's sake down let it brown. If it browns throw out the oil and start over.
Drop in the tomatoes. Mix them around a bit to stop the garlic from frying. If you are using canned tomatoes mash them up with the masher. Bring the sauce up to a simmer, let it cook for 10 minutes. Add the salt and Basil then emulsify it with a blender or an immersion blender.

I prefer to use the immersion blender because there's less to clean up and you can puree the sauce hot without having to worry about it flying all over the kitchen.

One of the many things that's nice about this sauce is that because it is emulsified, it doesn't run off the pasta or break up into puddles of oil and chunks of tomato. Just be careful not to boil it and break the emulsion when you reheat it.

I think the sauce is best served the way Helen served it. Spooned over the pasta after it has been put in the individual pasta bowls. Then grate some Parmigiano on top with a Mouli (I'm devoted to these and have used this type for almost thirty years.) follow it with a liberal grinding of black pepper then pause, take in the aroma and sit back and think about it for a moment before you lift your fork -just like the Helen's late husband Gene used to do.

That part of the recipe I learned from Gene and it's the one ingredient I never vary, ever.

I'll bet their kids don't either.


nhallfreelance said...

Bob, this recipe is so simple and gratifying. I've been making it several times a month since you first posted it. Obviously not always with fresh tomatoes, but pretty much always with fresh basil from the backyard. I love that I can have this sauce done in the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta. It's my go to dinner when I get home from work late on a school night. I have some in the freezer right now that I have leftover from a batch I adapted as pizza sauce. Works great that way, too.

Ben said...

Thanks for re-posting. Am I correct in assuming this must be frozen, and isn't safe for canning?

I'm also guessing that when you use fresh tomatoes, that you peel you seed them as well?

Bob del Grosso said...

Another reader reminded me that the pH needs to be less than 4.6 to make it safe for canning. So, given that the pH of tomatoes can vary, you really need to check it with a pH meter or pH paper on a batch by batch basis.

I don't can it (I freeze it) but if you want to can and the pH is not low enough you can make it more acidic with ascorbic acid or some other neutral flavored acidic salt. You could, of course, use lemon juice if you don't mind the change of flavor.

natalie sztern said...

Since the first posting of this I have been making it and in my house it is known as Del Grosso tomatoe sauce....

IdahoRocks said...

I take my end of season tomatoes (many, many tomatoes, many different colors) and, in the evening (it's convenient), roast them with some salt, maybe a bit of garlic and/or onion, and sometimes balsamic vinegar. After they have a good carmelization, and have lost about half their liquid, I leave them to cool in the oven and in the morning I turn them into sauce/passata/thin paste in the food processor. Then I put them in cannng jars, add the appropriate amount of ascorbic acid or lemon juice, do the boiling water bath, and voila! enough sauce to last all winter and then some. This year already I've put up 36 halfpints....

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