“Are you going to do something with those tomatoes?”
A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law generously gave me several pounds of home grown tomatoes, the last picked of the season before the weather became cold. I was thrilled, but then my son became ill, and a week was lost at the hospital and helping him to recover at home.
Over the weekend, my husband looked at the tomatoes still taking up space on our counter, and asked, “Are you going to do something with those tomatoes or am I going to have to compost them?”
The idea of composting all those lovely tomatoes horrified me, so I quickly grabbed a cutting board and went to work….
Folks who have been reading the blog for a while know that I’m a big fan of the least amount of effort for great results. So, what’s something easy one can do when you have pounds of tomatoes and no idea what to do with them? Marinara sauce.
Marinara sauce is just a sauce made from tomatoes. If you make up a huge batch, though, you can freeze it and use it in a variety of ways: the base for a thicker spaghetti sauce, sauce for pizza, in Spanish rice, for ratattouille, the base for a cocktail sauce, for soups, to top enchiladas, in Sloppy Joe’s, the list is pretty never-ending. And what’s lovely is that unless you’re allergic to tomatoes, it’s allergy friendly, too – no nuts, dairy, egg, gluten, sugar, peanuts, etc….
Easy Marinara Sauce
- The Tomatoes: I simply cut the tomatoes into fourths and cook them as is, seeds, peels and all.
- The Flavoring: Whatever you’d like. I usually throw in about eight to 10 whole garlic cloves, two purple scallions quartered and a chili pepper.
- The Herbs: Whatever you’d like. I like basil, oregano, and thyme. Use dried herbs. If you want fresh herbs, those can be added when you actually use the marinara sauce for a recipe.
- The Pan: I have a lovely Circulon pan which is 12 inches in diameter and three inches deep which I use for making marinara sauce. I recommend a larger, shallower pan over a deeper but smaller pot, which is the use recommendations. The reason? Because the shallower pan allows all the tomatoes to cook down quickly without you needing to continually stir to get the top tomatoes down to the bottom where the heat source is.
- The Cooking: If you cook the tomatoes in the shallower pan, you only need to cook the tomatoes, with a lid on, for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- The Consistency: If you want a chunky marinara sauce, simply let the cooked tomatoes cool as is. If you like a smoother marinara, puree everything up in a blender or food processor. If you don’t like the seeds, strain them out after pureeing. If you want a thicker marinara sauce, add tomato paste or cooked, pureed vegetables like squash or carrots or pumpkin which also add another flavor dimension.
- The Storing: Marinara sauce will keep for weeks in the fridge and for years in the freezer. To store in the freezer, make sure the sauce is completely cooled and then put the sauce into freezer friendly containers or bags. I prefer to put two cups of sauce into freezer bags because that’s the amount I tend to use for most recipes and because the bags will then lie flat in the freezer, taking up less space.
- The Use: If you know ahead of time you want to use frozen marinara sauce, simply take the containers or bags out of the freezer the day before. If you decide at the last minute to use sauce, the sauce easily defrosts as it cooks in the microwave or in a pan.