One of my greatest food memories involves tomatoes; we were touring South Lebanon and we stopped off at my cousin’s in-laws in this little hidden village beside a waterfall, and they were making a huge pot of tomato sauce on an open wood fire. It was HUGE as in it could fit a small person inside and I will never forget that tangy mouth watering smell of slow cooking tomatoes. They were preserving the extra summer tomatoes for the coming winter months and although I don’t live in a remote picturesque village, I still think it’s comforting to know how to make and store a basic tomato sauce.
Some people advocate straining a tomato sauce at the end but I prefer to blitz with a hand blender. I have used the fine metal strainer method before but it causes a lot of unnecessary mess and actually I think blitzing it gives the sauce a nice texture which you lose with straining along with the extra goodness from the skins. It’s difficult to give an exact recipe that relies on using leftover over ripe fruit; essentially it’s more about the process than the quantities. For a subtle garlicky flavour, add a clove or two of garlic peeled and sliced in half, but remember to remove these before blitzing if you don’t want it too strong. You should always under salt sauces that you may later add to different dishes, but as a general guide if you are making a small to medium pot of sauce, add almost a teaspoon of salt, and if you are making a large family size pot then add almost a tablespoon of salt.
In this recipe I used a mix of beef, plum and over ripe salad tomatoes. Each tomato adds something different be it in tanginess, sweetness or texture, so use whatever one’s you have at hand, though of course the more variety you use the more interesting your final flavour will be. If i’m not using the whole sauce in one go and probably won’t for the next few days, then I usually freeze it. You can keep the whole thing super simple using only tomatoes, regular olive oil and salt but here I add a few sprigs of oregano and basil which go with most dishes anyway. I wouldn’t add thyme, coriander or parsley because they are too strong and you can always add the herbs or pepper later depending on your final dish.
- 2 kilos of tomatoes, roughly chopped
- A good drizzle of regular olive oil (2-3 tablespoons)
- 3-4 sprigs of oregano
- Approx 10-20 medium basil leaves
- 2-3 garlic cloves, sliced in half
- ¾ tbsp salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- In a medium to large pot, add the olive oil, garlic and tomatoes
- Turn the heat to high for about 5 minutes until it starts to bubble, then turn the heat to low.
- De-sprig the oregano and add with the basil, cover with a lid.
- Cook for for around half an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Add the salt and pepper 15 minutes before you turn the heat off, taste and adjust accordingly.
- Remove the garlic pieces
- Blitz with a hand blender until smooth
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