Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Easy Tomato Sauce

 I opened my pantry and cans and cans of tomatoes fell out. Literally. Apparently I was under the impression that we were in need of canned tomatoes, and picked up a can or two every time I went to the grocery store. It was time to use up some tomatoes. And what better way to use canned tomatoes than with tomato sauce?

Yes, yes, I know, it's the height of summer, why didn't I use fresh tomatoes? My only excuse is that I don't love the texture of the sauce when the tomato skins are left on, and I was feeling too lazy to boil water to peel the tomatoes. Plus, see the commentary about how many cans of tomatoes I had, above.

Tomato sauce is super easy--thus the recipe name. Just a few everyday ingredients and you'll have enough sauce for several spaghetti dinners.

First thing I did was roughly chop the garlic. I love garlic. Lots and lots. So I used 5 cloves. Not everyone likes garlic that much. If that's you, feel free to use less garlic.

The onions got a rough chop, too. I didn't worry much about making the cuts nice and even and small, since I planned on pureeing most of the sauce later.

I know some people are picky about that. If rough chops bother you, just look away and scroll all the way to the bottom to the recipe.

While the onions and garlic sauteed in some olive oil with freshly ground pepper and salt, I got busy opening the cans of tomatoes.

By the way, I really want one of those Pampered Chef can openers that takes the whole top part of the can off. But I don't know anyone who sells PC stuff. I always get invited to the food mixes, candle, and makeup parties--I'd much rather spend my money on kitchen stuff!

I used fire-roasted tomatoes. I usually buy this kind, just for the extra flavor.

Um. Anyway. Once the onions start to soften, you can add the tomatoes into the pot.

Some bay leaves, oregano, and a pinch of sugar got thrown into the mix.

Tomatoes, especially canned tomatoes, tend to be on the acidic side. The sugar will help cut through that.

Here's what it should look like. Like a pot of...canned tomatoes.

I let the pot simmer for a while--at least a couple of hours. I leave the lid off so that liquid can escape and the flavors will become more concentrated. Go flip on a movie, and don't think about the sauce until the very end of the credits.

Also, I use a very deep pot. Simmering tomatoes are very much like volcanic lava. The bubbles are big and they make that plok, plok, plok sound. The plok sound, while fun to listen to, also means your sauce is making big, wet bubbles of tomatoey goodness that likes to jump out of the pot and onto your stovetop and any of the surrounding areas. Using a big pot helps contain the tomato mess.

Here's what the sauce looks like after a couple hours.

Grab a spoon or some tongs and fish out the bay leaves.

Seriously, don't forget this step. I have, before. I don't care for little bits of bay leaf in my food.

Grab your immersion blender and start blending away!

If you haven't got an immersion blender (I loooove mine, if you don't have one, I would highly recommend getting one!), you could use a regular blender. Just be very careful, as the tomato sauce is still really hot.

I threw the bay leaves back in, since it was a little before dinner and I thought I'd just let the sauce simmer a bit more. Right before serving, I splashed in some red wine vinegar and some fresh basil.

The vinegar really adds a finishing touch to the sauce. Give it a try.

I served my sauce over a bowl of herbed pasta and some leftover short ribs (and oh my gosh, it was amazing. I so do love short ribs.) I sprinkled some freshly grated Parmesan over the top, too. This made enough for a big spaghetti meal, leftovers the next day, and enough for another meal in the future (I froze what was left). All it took was some chopping, some can opening, and some simmering. Can't beat that!

Recipe: Easy Tomato Sauce

olive oil
1 onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
4 14.5 oz. cans tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dry oregano
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fresh basil (or 1 tsp. dry)
splash red wine vinegar

In a large pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until softened.

Add tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano, and sugar. Let pot simmer for at least 2 hours.

Remove bay leaves. Puree sauce until as smooth or chunky as you like it. Add bay leaves back in and simmer for another 15-30 minutes.

Right before serving add fresh or dry basil and red wine vinegar.

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