So how much sauce can you make from this many tomatoes?
Let’s find out! And take a look at some pictures.
Part 3: Tomato sauce
So the recipe, as you may know, actually appears in the previous post. I enjoyed writing it, and it pretty much covers the important things. I think part of the art is making it your own – figuring out what you like and also improvising – and for me and tomato sauce, I often just take whatever I have on hand and go from there. The recipe is the process.
Among the many things I like about cooking, one is that that no matter what you do, it usually turns out alright in the end. And if something doesn’t work out, that’s okay too. Only have dried oregano instead fresh, or no oregano at all? It’s still going to be good. Or decide to let it simmer for an extra hour, on purpose or by accident? Still going to taste good. Or want to try a mix of yellow and red tomatoes? It’s going to look and taste good.
This time around, I had a mix of round slicing tomatoes, red plum ones, and a few small tomatoes too. Here are the steps and how everything came together:
The first step is cutting the stems out of the large tomatoes. This makes it easier to peel and save the skins later on (after step 2). Because the stems on the plum tomatoes and smaller tomatoes are so small, they’re fine to stay in.
The next step is boiling a pot of water and putting the tomatoes in. The purpose here is to crack and loosen the skins and to partially cook and soften the tomatoes.
Some recipes say to leave the tomatoes in for just a minute or two, to only work the skins (in which case more of the tomato-cooking/simmering will happen later), but I’ve been leaving them in longer, sometimes 15-30 minutes, meaning I’ll do some of the initial cooking during this initial step. This also makes it easier to break the tomatoes into smaller pieces later.
I take the tomatoes out of the boiling water when they’re half or more soft, but can still hold their shape. If the tomatoes are at different stages of ripeness and if some are large and some are small, they’ll be ready to be taken out at different times.
This is how the tomatoes looked after their hot water bath. When I measured the volume of this bowl later using water, I found that the bowl holds 160 oz. That’s ten pounds! That’s also the equivalent, in terms of 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes, of more than 5 1/2 such cans.
The next step is prepping the onions and garlic for the sauce. This means dicing and sautéing them in olive oil until they’re soft.
I used two large onions and three cloves of garlic this time. For the oil, I started with 1/2 cup, which might sound like a lot, but there was also a lot of tomatoes, and the olive oil helps to make for a richer sauce. If I were making a smaller batch of sauce, I might start with one onion and one garlic clove.
After the onions and garlic are ready, transfer them to a large pot and add the tomatoes (after first having removed the tomatoes’ skins). Some recipes also say to remove the tomatoes’ seeds, but the seeds don’t bother me so I’ve never done that.
With the tomatoes now in the pot, at this point you can also break the them into smaller pieces using a wooden spoon, potato masher, or other kitchen implement that is up to the task. The tomato sauce can then be left to simmer while finishing the rest of the recipe.
Above is how the tomatoes looked (L) after removing the skins (R). I also poured out (and saved for another day) the extra tomato liquid so that the future sauce would be thicker. In this case, the extra liquid amounted to a full 32 oz.
To make the sauce thicker, I also dice the tomato skins into a paste and then add this paste to the pot. I love this step.
I usually dice the skins by hand, but this time I used the food processor to save a little time. I measured the volume of the resulting paste above, and it was 13 oz.
The second to last step is adding salt and pepper. I usually do 2 parts salt to 1 part pepper, but the ratio and exact amounts are up to you. Add a little, see how it tastes, add then add some more if you think it needs more.
I made a note while I was cooking that I added 1 tbsp salt and 1/2 tbsp pepper, but I think it actually might have been 1.5 tbsp salt and 3/4 tbsp pepper. Either way, it tasted good in the end. I also have a tendency to use less salt than others, so that’s another reason to try things out and see what you like.
The last step is adding oregano and basil (or any herbs that you like). This time I used fresh oregano from my CSA share and fresh basil from my garden.
I usually add the oregano during the middle of the sauce simmering/cooking time. The basil, though, I add just a few minutes before the sauce is done. I think this helps the basil retain its presence in how the tomato sauce tastes.
In the end, the approximately 60 tomatoes that I started with helped produce 144 oz of sauce.
Time-wise, I let the sauce simmer on low heat for about two hours. Cooking the sauce for one hour or even less time also would have worked, but I wanted to make it a little thicker, plus it gave me more time to write 3a. In the end, here was the ingredient list that made it all happen:
- 60 tomatoes (various sizes)
- 2 onions
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp pepper
- Leaves from 15 sprigs of oregano
- 1 handful of basil leaves
Next up is a look at putting everything together – eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese: the Eggplant Parmesan.