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I’m not talking about ketchup… but only a simple tomato sauce! Do we need a special blog entry on tomato sauce? I think: yes! Tomato sauce maybe simple, however, it’s the crucial part of lots of Italian inspired dishes – so we should take the time to sum up our experiences.
First glance at my photos? Yes – it’s a mess: most of the photos are blurry & the recipe result is messy, a little slimy, not yummy – in short: absolutely not fit for an appropriate photo shooting (especially on a food blog where photography excellence is a must have – well, I tried hard to make the best of this job…).
On the other hand a proper tomato sauce is absolutely delicious & combines different Mediterranean spices & flavors as the perfect fusion for pasta & meat & fish & seafood dishes… Of course, you can do the tomato part of each dish each time from the scratch, but it’s quite convenient to rely on some stored tomato sauce to speed up dish preparation.
Let’s start with lots of tomatoes…
… leading us to the crucial point of how to pick the right tomatoes!
From the beginning: I’m not a friend of any firm, cuttable tomatoes (which seem to be very popular when talking about using tomato slices for any decoration fussing of salads or schnitzels or whatever) because most of the time these very special selected pieces are far from being ripe… Tomatoes have to be ripe, very ripe, very red, soft, juicy! When squeezing a ripe tomato you should be aware that it might burst just in your fingers!
Therefore: stay away from any firm & cuttable tomatoes as well as from any beef tomatoes. The best for any use in tomato sauce are cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, plum tomatoes… use “ordinary” tomatoes only if not too big, but soft & ripe & red!
Tomatoes originate from Central & South America – that’s centuries ago: today the best tomatoes grow in the Mediterranean area especially in Italy, Southern France & Spain! In my view tomatoes need lots of sun to develop their special sweetness & aroma & softness. Especially this summer there was more rain than sun (until now) in Central Europe… & I don’t like to rely on any greenhouse tomatoes meticulously grown near North Sea shores…
Therefore: look out for tomatoes from the Mediterranean area!
Tomatoes for tomato sauce should be red, red, red… forget any special breeds developing or re-breeding yellow or almost green or almost black or orange tomatoes. Tomato sauce shall be red – not greenish-brown or whatever.
For the record:
I like to use special colored tomatoes for salads especially if they are not only interesting by their color, but also contribute a special delicious aroma. It’s the same with tomatoes as well as with carrots: nowadays you’ll get a lot of different carrot breeds with different colors looking appealing when properly arranged on a plate (& hopefully tasting as well)… but I start wandering…
Therefore: pick only red tomatoes!
The very 1st step in preparation is trimming the green stuff & washing the tomatoes thoroughly! Afterwards just cut them in halves (or quarters if somewhat bigger) & remove the jelly & the pits either by squeezing them or scraping. If the tomatoes are ripe this is really easy!
Next step is preparing a – rather big – casserole by adding olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic, chili, salt & pepper.
About the herbs – I mean the Mediterranean herbs:
Whenever possible I use fresh herbs. It doesn’t matter if it’s thyme (see photo below) or oregano or basil or rosemary or … if it’s just a single pick or a mixture of several herbs: just take the herbs, trim the stems & cut them roughly.
For the record:
If you want to create a special aroma for a special dish with a special herb which is – unfortunately – not available in your garden or on your balcony & or on your windowsill at this special moment in time just take the dried alternative.
Now mix everything: the tomatoes, the herbs & the olive oil etc.
Put the casserole in the oven for about 30 min. You need no preheating, but w/o preheating it will last about 10 min longer. The tomatoes are ready when the tomatoes seem shrivelled, squishy, mushy…
Let the tomato mess cool a little – it’s bubbling hot when leaving the oven. When manageable hot fill it in a blender, add some tomato purée out of a can – if you like. Just blend until all bits are gone…
The photos below are close-ups: the left on in daylight, the right one in artificial light. (I chose the left one for my blog image because it’s more natural although the right one is more striking.)
The consistency of the tomato sauce is… just soft & light!
What to do with my recipe? It’s rather vague, isn’t it?
For a start let me unveil that I got the basics for this tomato sauce from Ravinder Bhogal’s “Love to cook”. Based on her recipe I started diversification… & I ended up in my tomato sauce mess! Basically:
- You can create a very hot & spicy tomato sauce by just adding more & more chili!
- You can also create a tomato sauce from garlic heaven by using more & more cloves of garlic!
- Your choice of Mediterranean herbs depends in your pick of flavor! The classic herbs like thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary… may be used alone or mixed.
(I admit that I often just chop what is available on my windowsill…)
Next point: what to do with your tomato sauce?
- Ravinder Bhogal’s “Love to cook” uses the tomato sauce for a spicy soup with goat cheese “au gratin”… (I’ll let you know my version coming up soon…)
- You can use your tomato sauce for any lasagna or canneloni.
- You can use it for lots of pasta dishes…
- You can use it – of course – for… PIZZA!
- You can use it for any Mediterranean style vegetables if fried or baked in the oven…
I use to prepare some tomato sauce in advance e. g. when being able to lay my hands on appropriate tomatoes & store it in the fridge. Rather soon there are lots of pasta dishes & vegetables crying for tomato sauce… Otherwise when preparing a lasagna with tomato sauce (instead of béchamel!) I always like to prepare a lot more than I actually need for my lasagna because I can store it in the fridge… (You see: we are always dealing with the fridge at the end!)
…at last: alternatives?
Quite simple: what to do when homemade tomato sauce isn’t available (or you ran out of it)?
My recommendation is to use canned Italian ready-to-use tomato pulp w/o any other ingredients (except maybe of salt). You can add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic, chili, herbs… & mix a tomato sauce rather near to a homemade one!
The businesswoman with too many office hours thinks
If I may choose between a real homemade tomato sauce or an “almost homemade” tomato sauce I’ll prefer the alternative because it needs less efforts… however, isn’t it always exactly this choice? On the other hand it doesn’t seem to take too long to prepare my own homemade tomato sauce…
(I’m especially enthralled that I’ll need not peeling any tomatoes…)