When life gives you tomatoes…make sauce. If you grow tomatoes in your garden, then it is inevitable that your kitchen counters are overflowing with very ripe tomatoes. At the beginning of the garden season, I lost total control of how many tomato plants I bought because I was on the quest for the perfect tomato. Next, I kept wishing for all of my green tomatoes to ripen. Note to self, be careful what you wish for.
There have been sliced tomatoes, tomato salads, tomato sandwiches, and tomatoes have been in more dishes than you can imagine. I can’t even give enough away to make a dent in the tomatoes that are getting riper by the moment. The only answer is to get out the biggest pot in the kitchen and start making fresh tomato sauce.
That is not really a bad thing. When our home is surrounded by feet of snow and summer is just a faint memory, I will get a container of tomato sauce out of the freezer and within minutes I will have a meal on the dinner table that will be full of summer flavor. There is no comparison between sauce make from garden fresh tomatoes that are so full of flavor and what comes out of a jar.
Basic Tomato Sauce: There is no real recipe for sauce. I sauté some fresh garlic in olive oil and then add large chunks of tomatoes, salt and pepper. These simmer until the tomato water has been reduced to the consistency that you like. After cooling, the tomato skins can be removed by hand or the sauce can be put through a food mill. Put the sauce into containers and freeze. This is a basic sauce that can be used in so many recipes.
After the sauce has been defrosted, it can then be turned into your favorite pasta sauce or used in other recipes. A very comforting meal is pasta with fresh tomato sauce and sausage. I serve this dish with a bowl of whipped basil ricotta.
Gemelli Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Sausage
- 1 container of basic fresh tomato sauce (approx. 3 cups)
- 2 to 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/4 of an onion, chopped
- 1 or 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1/4 c. dry red wine (white if you prefer)
- several leaves of fresh basil, roughly torn (chopping makes them turn dark)
- 4 links Italian sausage
- freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese
- 1/2 lb. of pasta (this is for 2 generous servings)
Cook the sausage and set aside. Saute the onions and garlic in the same skillet where the sausage was cooked. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Add the cooked sausage back to the pan, along with the basic tomato sauce and let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until it reaches a consistency that you like.
While the sauce is simmering, add pasta to a pot of boiling salted water and cook until barely al dente. Remove half of the sauce and sausage and keep warm. Add the pasta to the remaining sauce and let it finish cooking until al dente or to your taste. Plate the pasta and sausage, top with some extra sauce and add a dollop of whipped basil ricotta. See recipe below.
Whipped Basil Ricotta
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 3 or 4 large leaves of basil, roughly torn
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Place the olive oil and garlic in a small bowl and warm in the microwave for 10 seconds. I feel that this takes the harshness away from the garlic but the step can be omitted. Place all the ingredients in a mini processor, and process for a few seconds. You only want the texture to be smooth and light but not runny.
I used Italian Sausage with Sundried Tomatoes and Black Olives that was purchased from Maurice Bonneau’s Sausage Kitchen. Sweet or hot Italian sausage, or a combo of both will be delicious. When serving this dish to guests and a combination of hot and sweet sausages are used, I like to cut the sweet sausage into large pieces and the hot into smaller pieces. That way it is easier to tell them apart.
Next spring when the snow is starting to melt and my thoughts turn to gardening, I have to remember one of life’s little lessons…don’t get carried away buying tomato plants. Although when I stop to think about it, what is so wrong with having quarts and quarts of tomato sauce in the freezer. I guess we will all just have to wait and see.