Homemade tomato sauce is amazing. There’s a freshness and an earthiness that comes from doing it yourself and a fun bit of smugness from whipping out a jar of the homemade stuff and pouring it over some pasta with an air of ‘here’s a little something I prepared earlier’. But if we’re going to be frank about it, it does also make a bit of a cluster-fuck of the kitchen as it can be messy and time consuming. But I’m all about that life. This is the kind of thing I’ll do on a Sunday afternoon (read: Friday night) and enjoy spending the time tweaking with an extra pinch of salt here or a splash of balsamic there. I love it because you get a perfect jar (or two) of something that can be added to huge amount of dishes and just ups the delight factor in eating them. Whenever I make this I feel like it’s just extra preparation into becoming a fabulous Nonna who grows her own tomatoes and makes wine. I blame Italy for that dream.
Standard everyday tomatoes from the farmers market are great for this; just make sure they’re fresh, fragrant and full of colour.
2 kg tomatoes (4.4 Ib)
1 medium sized brown onion
1 large garlic clove
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Bunch fresh basil
Remove the little stem cap from the top of the tomato and slice a shallow X into the base, repeat for all of them.
To blanche, have a pot of water on a rolling boil, and a large bowl of ice water. Drop a few of the cored and cross-sliced tomatoes into the boiling water. Once you notice the skin begin to just slightly wrinkle, remove them from the hot water and drop them in the ice water. Try not to keep them in the water too long so they don’t become waterlogged. I have a tiny kitchen so I do it in rounds so there is room for everything. Once you’ve removed the tomatoes from the ice water, peel the skin from them and discard. It’s super easy if you start peeling from the X at the bottom.
In a food processor, blitz or finely chop the onion and garlic. In a large, deep fry pan, sauté the onion and garlic with a little olive oil over medium high heat until translucent and a little soft. Turn down the heat a little and add the chopped tomatoes. Give a good stir and allow to simmer away for about 15 minutes. I prefer using a large fry-pan as it makes evaporation easier and I find it useful to keep an eye on the evenness of consistency.
While the tomatoes are bubbling away, roughly chop about six fresh basil leaves. Drop into the sauce mixture and add two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. Give it a good stir through and allow to simmer on a medium-low heat for another 20 minutes.
As the sauce cooks, you’ll notice it tends to be thicker in the middle and have more of a watery consistency around the outside, so stir it once in a while to blend everything through.
This is where you get to personalize it. If you’d rather your sauce slightly finer than rustic and choppy, get at it with a masher and break down the vegetables a little more. Taste and season as you like it. If you like a stronger, more concentrated tomato flavour, turn the heat up a little (keep an eye on it) and allow it to thicken and become darker – more like a paste.
I had mine simmer for about an hour in total, keeping the bright red colour and maintaining the fresh tomato flavour. For me it’s perfect for a pasta sauce base, or heaven of heavens, mixing with white wine for some amazing mussels (Yaaaaas).