The summer night is quiet. A couple rests peacefully in their comfortable feather-topped bed. The windows are open; the low hum of a fan filling the air as it sends a soothing breeze throughout the room. The couple has drifted off into a tranquil dreamland, never suspecting what lie ahead.
Down the hall, a door swings open; the constant murmur of the fan providing cover to the sound.
Tap, Tap, Tap.
The sound of small, bare feet on hardwood floors.
She doesn’t feel the breath upon her face. She isn’t aware that she is being watched. Until it yells, Snuggle up!
Startled and confused, she reaches over and lifts the small, warm person into bed and does as he commands. Snuggle up. And they begin drifting back to sleep; the midnight snuggle attack a roaring success. Until the small person begins talking. Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? At which point the slumbering man awakes and demands that the small noisy person return to his bed.
Thus began a mostly sleepless night.
And so it is a great joy to me that today’s post was actually last night’s dinner. Cooking complete. Food taste-tested. Photos taken. Recipe written. Just a matter of a few edits and done for the day. Leftovers for dinner…
Above all else, tasty food starts with tasty ingredients. Fresh ingredients at their prime require minimal fuss to produce outstanding results. When it comes to homemade tomato sauce, most of the year, your best bet may be canned tomatoes. Has lack of sleep made the gourmand mom lose her mind?? But, no. Tomatoes are canned at the peak of their ripeness at the peak of their season, their flavorful prime. You’d be hard-pressed to find fresh tomatoes nearly that tasty mid-winter. When tomatoes are not in season, canned crushed or whole tomatoes will offer you the most flavorful, nutrient-rich option.
But, there is a window of time when the ripe tomatoes, fresh from your garden, the farmer’s market, or your local grocery store are bursting with flavor. And in the Northeast, that time is now.
We’ll start with ripe, fresh tomatoes. (Taste one to ensure that they have vibrant, sweet tomato flavor.) Use a knife to make an ‘x’ at the bottom of each tomato. This will allow the skins to slip off easily.
Drop a few tomatoes at a time into a pot of boiling water. Allow them to sit in the boiling water for about 30 seconds.
Use a slotted spoon the remove the tomatoes.
Immediately place them into an ice bath to cool. The skins should begin slipping off on their own. Use your fingers to peel the tomatoes.
Once the tomatoes have been peeled, they’ll only require a few simple steps and a handful of fresh ingredients to become a flavorful marinara sauce. Make a big batch and freeze a few containers for some fresh tomato sauce, post peak tomato season.
Serve the sauce over pasta as is, or add a few more ingredients to make your own tomato sauce variation. Try olives, ground meat, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, or roasted garlic.
Basic Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce
- 3 1/2 pounds ripe Plum/Roma Tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 4 cloves Garlic, smashed
- 2 small Onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup Basil, chiffonade*
- Salt (about 1 1/2 tsp)
- Crushed Red Pepper, to taste
*Click here to see my photo guide on How to Chiffonade Basil.
Cut the top off of the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half. Squeeze the seeds from the tomatoes into a strainer. Reserve the strained tomato liquid. Rough chop the tomatoes. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and smashed garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato liquid to the pan. Cook for about 25 minutes over medium heat, until the tomatoes have broken down. For your safety, allow the mixture to cool slightly. Then, use a blender, food processor, or immersion blender to blend the mixture to your desired consistency. Be careful while blending hot liquids. Add the basil and season with salt and crushed red pepper. Continue cooking for about 10 more minutes to allow the flavors to blend and condense.
**You can make this recipe using canned tomatoes too. Look for canned whole or crushed tomatoes with no added salt. If you really want to use fresh tomatoes, but they’re not at their flavorful best, try adding a bit of tomato paste. The concentrated tomato flavor will do wonders for your sauce!