The key to making high-quality homemade tomato sauce is to buy the best tomatoes you can find and purchase a variety of different kinds. Might sound obvious, but it can be overlooked. Usually, the best tomatoes are sourced at the supermarket during the latter part of the year.
If you desire the very best technique a Chef could offer you, then be sure to visit our Peak of the Season Tomato Sauce post
Fun idea, the next time you decide to make tomato sauce, go check out one of your local farmer's markets. Connecting with "where" our food comes from is just plain fun and we get a special sense of pride knowing we're supporting our local farmers.
Begin with removing the peel. There are a few methods you can use, but the easiest is to use the French technique called Concasse.
You will want to remove the skins from the tomatoes. This could be a nightmare with poor technique. No worries. To remove the skins from the tomatoes boil some water and cut an "X" in the tops of the tomatoes.
Lower the tomatoes into the boiling water and cook them for 90 seconds to 3 minutes depending on the size of your tomatoes. The skins will be pulling back on themselves. Making it super easy to remove the peel/skin.
The tomatoes are done when you can see the peel peeling away from the tomatoes. Pour out the water and reheat the pot. Begin sauteeing/cooking one onion on medium heat with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt.
While the onions sautee, remove the peel from the tomatoes and cut out the core/root.
If you use a food mill, it will help remove the seeds and pulp.
Add the tomatoes to the pot with the onions sauteing on medium heat and cook for around 10 minutes to soften.
Next transfer the cooked onions and tomatoes to a blender or food processor to puree until smooth and velvety. Check out the equipment I suggest below.
Once the tomato sauce is smooth, add it back into the pot to finish cooking on low to medium-low heat. This is the time to add additional herbs and spices.
The longer you cook the sauce the thicker and deeper in flavor the sauce becomes.
🌿 List: Herbs & Spices
Suggested list of potential options. Do not add off of them to the sauce or overpower the flavor.
- Curry Powder
🧂 Seasoning Technique
When it comes time to add more flavor, I often add oregano, parsley, basil, a pinch of sugar, salt, and pepper. While cooking the onions, add some red wine to the pot and reduce by a little bit more than half. Adds a great depth of flavor. Just make sure you cook off the raw alcohol in the wine.
Another thing to consider is the color. Our homemade tomato sauce "base" will have a lighter color. The reason for the lighter color is the blender incorporates a little bit of air. Longer cook times and the reduction will help darken the sauce.
You can also use a food mill to puree the tomatoes without the incorporation of the air. The tomato sauce will stay a natural color.
Adding in tomato paste also helps achieve the dark color much quicker, and a more robust tomato flavor profile.
To experience the freshest flavor, only store tomato sauce for 4-5 days in the refrigerator. The natural acids in the tomatoes will begin to ferment and the flavor will change
Two tricks. First add a little bit of extra water and mix it well. This will increase the time you can freeze the sauce. The freezer destroys moisture over time. This is insurance.
Once into a freezer save container then add a small bit of olive oil over the top. Do not mix it in. This will create a natural cover to the top of the sauce, helping protect it from freezer burn.
Never ever store tomato products in aluminum containers. The natural acid in the tomatoes will have a chemical reaction.
🍅 Tomato, Fruit or a Vegetable?
So what’s the real difference between fruits and vegetables? Which is which?
In short, fruits have seeds
The way botanists see it, a fruit is an entity that develops from the fertilized ovary of a flower. This means that tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, corn kernels, and beans and pea pods are all fruits; so are apples, pears, peaches, apricots, melons, and mangos.
Vegetables, botanically, are any edible part of a plant that doesn’t happen to be a fruit, as in leaves (spinach, lettuce, cabbage), roots (carrots, beets, turnips), stems (asparagus), tubers (potatoes), bulbs (onions), and flowers (cauliflower and broccoli).
Culturally speaking, the world over calls tomatoes both a fruit and a vegetable.
Could you imagine being on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and getting the question, "Are tomatoes a fruit or vegetable? and whichever answer you gave they call it wrong...The subject of "Are tomatoes fruit or vegetable" is still open for discussion.
When trying to eat healthy here is a little tip to top health. Brighter fruits and vegetables equal really strong health properties, and red happens to one of the very tops in this line of thinking. The homemade tomato sauce we are making today is simple, yet very on-point in flavor and with respect to our ingredients. Ok, we got it, great ingredients; but there is always more to the story. We cannot forget about our good friend "technique".
Tomatoes offer a wide range of health benefits, one being weight loss. The list goes on. We hear a lot about flavonoids and antioxidants being able to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Lycopene shows up in a big way in tomatoes. This flavonoid antioxidant has the ability to protect the cells even as it protects the skin from ultraviolet damage, and as a possible result, skin cancer.
ℹ️ Tomato Facts
Grocery store greenhouse vine-ripen tomatoes. Have you ever stopped and wondered why they are sold still connected to the vine?
Answer: shortly after the tomatoes are picked they begin to denature. This is when the tomatoes start to give off nitrogen and start to age. This is a good thing 🙂
While this process is happening the tomatoes are actually getting sweeter through the denaturing process. Just like bananas sitting out on the counter and turning darker in color.
The denaturing processes actually is slowed down when you keep the tomatoes attached to the vine. Which increases the shelf life.
As cooks, we all want to make the best food we can. With denaturing in mind this gives us additional cheffing powers with our food creations. In the case of tomatoes, be sure to buy the tomatoes a few days before you plan to make your next batch of homemade tomato sauce and just let them sit out on the corner over those days. They will get sweeter by the day.
Culinary Fact About Vidalia Onions:
Ever heard of a "1015 Onion"?
One day you're going to be in a restaurant reading a menu. Reading over the menu you notice a dish labeled called "1015 onions". So what does it mean?
The 1015 Texas Sweet Onion is considered the sweetest onion in the world and has the nickname of the million-dollar onion from the cost associated with the college A&M's time and money spent on development.
The reason they are called 1015 is they have to be planted before October 15th each year to be ready for the spring harvest.
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Homemade Tomato Sauce
Basic Tomato Sauce Ingredients
- 6 large Greenhouse or Plum Tomatoes / ie San Marzano Tomatoes
- ½ large Onion Vidalia Onions are my choice
- 1 tbsp Tomato paste
- 1 tbsp Sea Salt
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
Optional Herbs & Seasonings
- 1 tbsp Oregano
- 1 ½ tbsp Basil
- 1 tbsp Parsley
- Poblano Pepper Personal favorite. Sautee until soft before adding
Removing the Tomato Peel/Skin
- Take a paring knife and mark/cut "X"s on the top of the tomatoes. Make the cuts about 2 inches wide.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil
- Place the tomatoes into the boiling water for around 90 seconds to 2 minutes, or until the peel starts to come off.
- Next, remove the tomatoes and allow them to cool so you can handle them. Then remove the peels. I like using a knife
- Chop the onion and begin cooking it in a large pot on medium heat. Add olive oil to sautee the onions and begin creating the flavor base. Add a pinch of salt. Cook/sautee for 3 minutes.If you would like a stronger flavored tomato sauce you could add garlic. But only add the garlic once the onions have cooked and begun to soften or risk the garlic burning.
- Give the tomatoes a rough chop and add them to the cooked onions. Cook together for 10 minutes on medium heat. You can add a little bit of water at this point. If you add too much water by accident, you can always "cook" / "reduce" the sauce on the stovetop. The longer you cook the sauce the thicker and more reduced it becomes.
- Finish the sauce by using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor. Blend/puree until smooth. This is where you can add any additional flavors you want. Oregano, parsley, basil. Just be careful to not add too much or risk overpowering the tomato sauce.
- Add smooth tomato puree back to the pot and cook till desired consistency.
- You could add the tomato paste at this point for deeper color or just cook the sauce until it darkens in color.
- Add salt & pepper to taste
- Remember to rinse the tomatoes off under cold water to remove all dirt.
- Tomatoes are at their peak season in the latter part of the year in North America.
- The value of a plain tomato sauce cannot be overstated. This offers you the chance to turn the sauce into many other sauces.
- Cooking in batches, making a lot of sauce, reduce the amount of salt you add and wait until the sauce is used. The salt over time can mask the natural tomato flavors.
- Never store tomato sauce in aluminum. The acid in the tomatoes will have a chemical reaction.