Friday, May 27, 2011

Farmer’s Market Marinara Sauce

You may remember that, at the farmer’s market this week, I bought four beautiful tomatoes.  Then, on Wednesday, my friend Yvette gave me a huge bag filled with about 15 more from her garden. The Hubs is a huge fan of raw tomatoes, but he’s the only one in the Foodie household–I like them sun-dried or roasted or cooked in just about any way, but I cannot stomach a raw tomato.  The Foodie children feel the same way.  I think it’s a texture thing.  In marinara sauce, however–well, it just doesn’t get much better than marinara made with home grown tomatoes.  Although I’ve offered up a recipe for marinara made from canned tomatoes, this recipe is a whole different creature.  For one thing, it involves blanching your fresh tomatoes (removing the skins) and getting rid of the seeds inside.  That’s a little extra effort, but the results are definitely worth it.

You’ll note that this recipe also calls for a small can of tomato paste.  If you want to work only with fresh ingredients, you can certainly skip that; I like adding the tomato paste because it gives the sauce a darker red color–fresh tomatoes create a sauce that’s closer to orange–and a little more body.  (If it ends up being too thick for your liking, you can always thin it out with a glug of red wine or water.)  Without the tomato paste, you’ll need to plan on letting your sauce cook and thicken a little longer.

Lastly, if you’re growing your own basil, pick large leaves or increase the amount of fresh basil accordingly.  Fresh herbs should always be added toward the end of your cooking time, since they break down in high temperatures and lose their flavor.  If you’re using dried basil, you can add it when you add the garlic. Start with a teaspoon and work your way up.


Farmer's Market Marinara Sauce


10 fresh tomatoes (medium to large in size--if they're small, double the number)
2 T. olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
10 fresh basil leaves, or dry basil to taste
1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar, if needed


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Use a sharp paring knife to cut a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato; lower tomatoes into the boiling water and let them stay there for one minute, no longer. (Work with one or two tomatoes at a time; otherwise, some of them will end up staying in the water too long.) Set the tomatoes in a large bowl. When they've all had a dip in the boiling water, set the bowl of tomatoes in your sink and pour cold water over them. Let them sit for a minute or two; drain off the water and replace it with fresh, cold water. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, you should be able to slip off their skins easily. Place the unpeeled tomatoes in a second large bowl.

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally (from side to side, not from stem to base.) Inside, you'll find a number of pockets filled with seeds and slimy goop. Use your thumbs to push the seeds and goop out of the tomatoes and into the sink. Don't worry about getting rid of every last seed--we're just removing them to give the sauce a more pleasant appearance and texture. After you've seeded each tomato half, cut it into large chunks. Place the chunks in the bowl you used for holding the blanched-but-not-yet-peeled tomatoes.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes gently--you don't want hot oil splashing all over the place. Once the tomatoes are in the pan, sprinkle the minced garlic over the top. (Adding the garlic after the tomatoes helps to ensure that it won't burn, which makes it bitter.) The tomatoes will quickly begin to give up their juice and lose their shape. When the tomato juice comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low. Add the tomato paste, if you're using it, and stir everything together.

Allow the sauce to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste the sauce and add the sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, if necessary. (Home-grown tomatoes rarely need the additional sugar, since they're allowed to ripen completely on the vine.) Snip or tear the basil leaves into small pieces and stir them into the sauce just before serving over pasta.



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