Most closely associated with pasta, tomato sauce, often called red gravy, is easy to make and great addition to your freezer. At this time of year, late summer, tomatoes are plentiful and not expensive. The best choice for sauce are what are often called, aptly enough, sauce tomatoes; blemished Romas that are culled from those offered at the front of the farm stand. A vendor at the Binghamton farmers’ market gave me a few pounds of them just so she wouldn’t have to throw them away. I promised her a jar of sauce!
Note: you can make a very good tomato sauce with canned tomatoes or concasse tomatoes usually sold in a box. In my experience these are not as sweet as fresh tomatoes so you might with to add a couple teaspoons of sugar.
4 pounds Roma tomatoes
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled or scraped and coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
½ cup dry red wine
1 large sprig of fresh basil stem and leaves finely chopped
1 Tbsp. dried oregano or ¼ cup finely chopped fresh oregano
2 tsps. Crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
Generous grind of black pepper, about 1 tsp.
Rinse the tomatoes then cut out the stems and any bad spots. Put them on a baking sheet and place about 4 inches below a hot broiler for about 10 minutes, turning about halfway through. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the tomatoes over a strainer place in a large bowl then, using your thumbs, squeeze open the tomatoes and scrape the seeds into the strainer. Put the seeded tomato into the bowl of a food processor. When all the tomatoes have been peeled and seeded force the collected juices through the strainer and into the bowl. Whiz the tomatoes in the food processor for a few seconds. Add them and any juices left on the baking sheet to the bowl.
Put the onion, carrot, and garlic into the food processor and chop finely but do not puree. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low and add the vegetables. Sweat slowly until soft but not browned. Add the tomatoes, wine, herbs, and pepper. If needed add a bit of water. Simmer on medium-low heat, covered for about an hour.
Puree the sauce with a stick blender or, if you do not have a stick blender, allow to cool a bit and puree in a food processor or blender. Simmer, uncovered, for another ½ hour. Taste and adjust seasoning. I usually leave sauces and stocks unsalted or under salted and correct the seasoning when I use them.