In season tomatoes are something to truly be savored. Their season is fleeting and is usually gone before I know it, which is all the more reason to enjoy them when they’re at their peak. I’m usually fine making tomato sauce from canned tomatoes, but I can’t bring myself to do that during summer when so many varieties of fresh tomatoes are available from local farmers. This part of Virginia is known for Hanover tomatoes, and there are signs at the farmers market announcing their arrival as soon as they become available. Not being a native Virginian, I have no idea where the tomatoes originated. I can tell you, however, that they make darn fine tomato sauce.
The beauty of this tomato sauce lies in its simplicity. A few ingredients come together to create phenomenal flavor. The original recipe didn’t use garlic or onion, but apparently I’m incapable of making pasta sauce without it (for proof, see my Vodka Pasta post). In addition to the garlic, onion and tomatoes, the only other thing we use in this sauce is fresh basil. We’ve used this tomato sauce for lasagna, stuffed shells and spaghetti, and it makes all of them shine. You really can’t beat the flavor of fresh, in season (and local, to boot) tomatoes, and this sauce really lets that flavor through.
- YIELD: about 1 quart
4 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored
Small yellow onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Prepare an ice bath and place near the stove.
Using a paring knife, cut a shallow x onto the bottom of each tomato. Carefully add the tomatoes to the boiling water and cook until the skins split, 15 to 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes and place immediately into the ice bath. When they have cooled completely, removed the skins and discard.
Quarter the tomatoes. Set a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and squeeze the seeds and juice into it. Once all the tomatoes have been squeezed, press on the seeds to extract as much tomato juice as possible. Chop the tomatoes and set aside.
Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about a minute more. Stir in tomatoes and their juices. Cook until sauce reaches a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes. Add salt and pepper as needed, then stir in the basil. Serve with your favorite pasta.