When Life Gives You Tomatoes…Make Sauce

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.

Abundance of Tomatoes

Look At The Size Of These Tomatoes

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

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.



About Karen

I travel the back roads of New England and beyond, sharing great food and interesting places.
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63 Responses to When Life Gives You Tomatoes…Make Sauce

  1. Wow, the sausage and pasta look wonderful!

  2. Fabulous tomatoes, and I’m doing the same thing with a bunch of them here. This is a great time of the year.

  3. lvaletutto says:

    Oh my God, you’re killing me… It’s 10 at night here and I want to eat this dish now! I love homemade tomato sauce and I make some every year around this time with the bounty of tomatoes I get from my garden in upstate NY. This will be the first year I haven’t done that in forever. I haven’t been able to keep my tomato plants here in Germany from getting killed by a bought of late season blight! Oh well… I will definitely have to make a trip to the farmers market to get some tomatoes now so I can make some sauce and perhaps this very dish! Thanks for your efforts to curb my late night hunger attacks. Love the shots of those heirloom tomatoes btw.

  4. Monique says:

    I love the idea of the ricotta:)
    Duly noted..

    The tomatoes are wonderful..I love the purple one:)

    I just took a photos of one of my son-in-laws tomatoes ripening outside on a table:)

    Thanks for the Whipped Ricotta idea:)
    I had an appointment in town today and the market had bushels of tomatoes.none as interesting as yours in bulk:)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Monique, I think you will enjoy the whipped ricotta. I really did grow some interesting tomatoes this year…the purple ones were Black Krim and Cherokee Purple. Both had the most wonderful flavor.

  5. I completely agree! It looks so amazing, I adore a good tomato sauce.

  6. Susan says:

    I bet the sauce is wonderful with such a variety of tomatoes–all blending and adding their unique tastes to the mix. Yum!! Oh, now I’ve gone and gotten hungry.
    Happy Saucing!

  7. Food From Our Life says:

    Fantastic! Although if you preserve the sauce in jars it will probably keep better – don’t want to tell you how to suck eggs, but I would have thought if you have that many tomatoes make like an Italian Nonna and get them into jars! You won’t regret it and hopefully you have enough to last til next summer 🙂
    Plus you’ll have more space in your freezer for other things.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kate, I do welcome your comment and I agree that canning is a wonderful way to preserve fresh tomatoes. Our summer cottage in Maine is too small for all of my canning equipment so I use my freezer method here.

  8. I’ve been making lots of sauce too! I freeze mine plain to season how I would like later when I want to use it. That way, I have sauce for both chili or spaghetti on hand!

    • Karen says:

      I agree. The herbs and spices can be added when the using the basic sauce in the final recipe. That way it can be used in so many different recipes from various cuisines and the herbs and spices stay vibrant and flavorful.

  9. Monique says:

    We keep licking a new spoon:)It just so happened that we were having Pesto Pasta tonight..Our pesto from last yr;)

    Jacques fresh crumbled breadcrumbs..I thought this would be good..
    It’s better than ice cream:)

    • Karen says:

      Monique, I am so glad that the two of you liked the whipped basil ricotta. I love creating new recipes and my husband and I really like this one. Thank you for your very nice compliment.

  10. Charles says:

    Those are some amazing looking tomatoes. I bet the taste is just incredible! And I totally second the first comment. The tomato and sausage pasta dish looks completely drool-worthy!

  11. ....RaeDi says:

    Wonderful dish! Colorful and I bet delicious! Whipped Basil Ricotta… what a nice surprise and I will have to make this, sounds delicious! Oh… I will take one box of tomatoes we did not get a garden in this year due to my health, next year….RaeDi

  12. Beautiful recipe Karen!

  13. ChgoJohn says:

    Oh, I so agree with you about using fresh tomatoes for sauce. And boy did you have a bounty of tomatoes to cook with. Your pasta dish looks so good and I love the basil-flavored ricotta. A wonderful post!

  14. Karen I love simple recipes and I love pasta! I will be trying this dish soon!

  15. Ann says:

    Wow – those tomatoes are incredible and HUGE! I love homemade tomato sauce and I just had my freezer delivered yesterday….next year, it’s a garden! Tomorrow, it’s corn….which is in season beautifully here in Florida! I’m still on the hunt for good tomatoes tho….maybe I’ll get lucky and find a late garden road side stand!

    BTW – Basil whipped ricotta? You are a genius!

  16. What a great selection of tomato varieties – well done on growing them so successfully.
    Great idea about making the sauce. I make a lot of soup when I use up cheap vegetables and like you – defrosting them in the depths of winter brings back warming memories of summer days!

  17. That basil ricotta looks wonderful – just when we were running out of ideas!

  18. Judy says:

    This makes me wish we were neighbors, I know I could help take some tomatoes off your hands–we could occasionally share a cup of coffee too, which would be delightful too. What a wonderful feeling to harvest from your own labor, nothing like it. It will continue to give back to you through the winter as you described.

    Oh, and basil in ricotta — two of my favorite things combined! Must have this soon–and if you lived closer, I’d invite you over to share. 🙂

  19. What a wonderful post! Our tomato bounty looked like that earlier in the year, but ours have dwindled into just a few each day – even though we still have many green tomatoes on the vine. If we have enough I want to make your tomato sauce and freeze it! I have bags of cherry tomatoes in the freezer, but the sauce sounds – and looks! – perfect! Do you mix your tomato varieties when making sauce, or use only one variety per batch? Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Phyllis, Thank you for your nice comment. Yes, I do mix the varieties when making sauce. I’m going to make one exception. I’m going for make a yellow sauce from just the Kellog Breakfast tomatoes. I think it will be lovely and a surprise when I serve it to guests. We never get a chance for all of the green tomatoes to ripen here in Maine before the first frost.

  20. Steve Carss says:

    Nice tomatoes, like you we have so many at the moment, i like to make chutney or tomato ketchup from mine, I love a fresh tomato, mozzarella, red onion and chilli salad to, looks so good when you use a variety as well.

  21. ambrosiana says:

    Great choice of pasta format Karen!! I love Gemelli wit hearty tomato sauces with sausages !!! Gemelli pasta makes the tomato sauce cling to it. It may sound strange, but the choice of pasta can totally change the pasta dish!! I also like the whipped basil ricotta addition!!!

  22. ceciliag says:

    oo that basil ricotta looks just great, I make my own ricotta after I make cheese and am always looking for tasty ways to use it.. thank you c

  23. wow! that past dish looks heavenly
    the very definition of comfort food

  24. Beautiful post, Karen! Those tomatoes look to die for, as does that pasta dish! Fresh grown tomatoes just can’t be beat 🙂

  25. Rachel says:

    Love the basil ricotta idea! I put lemon basil in fruit salad with mint, but never thought to do this! Mmmm!!!

  26. Those tomatoes are gorgeous. The sausage looks great too.

  27. Tandy says:

    You could always leave a box of tomatoes at the top of your drive for people to help themselves to – an honesty box type of situation, that we saw all over the UK 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tandy, I have put bags of apples out on the honesty system in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, where are cottage is located in Maine that is not possible.

  28. cabinet stew says:

    LOVE tomatoes – as you know – I am eating tomatoes morning, noon and night these days! I also make sauce and freeze it. The whipped ricotta is genius! I just made some stuffed shells ( post to come) and this whipped ricotta technique would have lightened them up beautifully. not that I fins a problem eating pounds of cheese, pasta and sauce!!

  29. Look at the size of those tomatoes!!!! I swear we are eating them at every meal right now because they are so luscious. Tomato sauce and applesauce are my two favorite winter treats and both are ripe right now. My kitchen is a busy place.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cathy, Aren’t those the biggest tomatoes. I put the dollar bill and quarter by them for comparison. Knowing you, I think your kitchen is always a busy place.

  30. Your tomatoes are just beautiful and I could dig into that dish of pasta, sausage and sauce right now.

  31. pattiblaine says:

    Those are exquisite tomatoes! I’m grateful to a neighbor who is sharing hers. And their homegrown garlic! My tomatoes are few and rather small this year.

  32. Amy says:

    Nothing quite beats homemade tomato sauce. Yummmmm.

  33. Kristy says:

    Holy huge tomatoes! Wow! I’ve been freezing tomato sauces for the past few weeks as I keep stealing tomatoes from my mom. I can’t wait to use them this winter when I need a good dose of comfort. I absolutely love your basil ricotta! That will be topping my next pasta dish.

  34. I am not sure which one I liked the most- the whipped basil ricotta (Genius) or the pasta with fresh tomato sauce! They are both amazing and I am definitely putting this on my to do list. Love your site! Your a great cook and look forward to coming back for more!

  35. Candace says:

    I have got to make some of that whipped basil ricotta. It looks fantastic!

  36. OMG! the color and richness of your homemade sauce screams fresh tomatoes. I am craving some really good pasta with that rich sauce right now!! Yummy

  37. That looks really delicious, and like the simple idea of the whipped basil ricotta.

  38. Babs says:

    Karen, Your heirloom tomatoes are gorgeous. We plant tomatoes every year, but this year they suffered from the heat and lack of rain…even though we watered them. Our peppers are still producing though. I’m copying your pasta sauce recipe and the one for the delicious looking, and sounding, whipped basil ricotta. Headed to the store for ricotta. 🙂 We still have three basil pllants.

  39. Caroline says:

    Those tomatoes are gorgeous! I love heirlooms. Nothing like ’em. That pasta dish looks spectacular as well. Hope you had a nice weekend. 🙂

  40. Joanne says:

    I made tomato sauce today so I can agree that it is definitely the way to go when it comes to tomatoes! I love that you mixed it with ricotta…the best!

  41. Jenny liu says:

    I will definitely try this beautiful dish, Like the combination of pasta and Italian sausage! very good everyday recipe!

  42. Those are amazing tomatoes! i think i may try an heirloom tomato plant next year. And this recipe sounds great!

  43. Gorgeous dish with a fantastic mixture of flavours. Love the idea of the basil whipped ricotta . Have never thought of doing that. And that´s a very impressive sausage (if you don´t mind me saying so)!

  44. teresa says:

    You certainly do have a lot of tomatoes there! And that pasta with fresh tomato sauce looks delish! Great blog post.

  45. CorkAndSpoon says:

    Wow, those tomatoes look amazing. I hope they turned out as delicious as they look! I think I’m going to have to try my hand at that basil ricotta, my basil plant needs a hair cut 🙂 (~Ruth~)

  46. what wonderful varieties of tomatoes you have – great shapes and colours, a real feast for the eyes

  47. Wow!!! Sounds like you got even more carried away than we did! And like you, we’re just waiting on all of our green tomatoes to ripen off so we can start the canning process, and like you, I’m afraid we just might regret it if they all ripen at the same time. So far, we’ve only been getting 4 or 5 every couple of days, but I have a feeling that’s all fixing to change.

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