Tomatoes are a staple in my summer garden. Each year, I carefully select the varietals I will grow from saved seeds guided by my notes on prior crop success. When early spring warms the ground, I plant my starts and spend the next several months daydreaming about the ripe, juicy tomatoes I will reap as a reward.
In the same way a “watched pot never boils,” waiting for peak harvest is a true test of patience. In recent weeks, I’ve been anxiously eyeing my Cuor Di Bue Italian heirlooms; watching as they grew heavy with fruit that strained the architecture of the supporting trellis. But the more I stared impatiently at the slow-growing globes, the more time seemed to stretch into infinity. Then, seemingly overnight, I had a tomato explosion on my hands.
I thought I was ready for this year’s harvest.
The moment of reckoning came as I bent low to pluck one large specimen, and discovered the tangled vines concealed a canopy of tomatoes beneath.
When I was done picking, I had 50+ pounds of gorgeous tomatoes covering the length of my kitchen island; a pretty impressive yield from six plants!
When patience rewards you with a bountiful tomato harvest, it is time to make sauce! I dedicated my Labor Day to this labor of love, and my family will rejoice as they savor the essence of summer in the tomato-less months of winter ahead.
This recipe for Tuscan Tomato Sauce was inspired by a visit to the Italian countryside near Florence a few years ago. It is not difficult to make, but it is time consuming. Like all good things, it is worth the wait.
Tuscan Tomato Sauce (makes 10-12 servings)
Printable recipe: Tuscan Tomato Sauce
10 pounds ripe sauce tomatoes
3/4 cup EVOO
10-12 fresh garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon dried organic oregano or basil
Sea salt & black pepper (optional)
1 tsp. red chili flakes (optional)
- Stem and rinse tomatoes. Coarsely chop and set aside in a large bowl.
- Place a food mill with a medium sieve over a large stainless steel stock pot. Working in batches, spoon the chopped tomatoes into the mill and grind, which will remove the skin and most of the seeds. The ground tomato will fall into the pot beneath.
*Optional: If you are short on time and don’t mind tomato skins and seeds in your sauce, simply pulse the chopped tomatoes in a food processor until ground but not pureed.
- Place the pot of tomatoes on the stove (do not cover) and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce comes to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer briskly for about three hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. *Don’t worry if the mixture is frothy at first. This will disappear as the sauce slowly reduces and thickens to the desired consistency.
- While the sauce is cooking, pour the EVOO, garlic and fennel seeds in a saucepan and heat at medium temperature until the garlic begins to sizzle. Cook for 2-3 minutes (do not brown the garlic), then remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- After cooking for about 2 hours, add the infused EVOO with herbs to the pot along with the dried basil or oregano. Stir to mix and continue reducing.
- After 3 hours of cooking time, the sauce will be thickened and reduced by two-thirds the original quantity. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding salt and fresh ground pepper if needed. Remove from heat and cool completely (overnight).
- Ladle the desired serving size into freezer safe containers or large ziplock bags and freeze until ready to use.
Note: I generally allot 2/3 cup per serving.