Smitten Kitchen’s Naked Tomato Sauce

I have told you all in the past how much I didn’t like tomatoes. I liked ’em ok in sauce, ketchup and, you know, things like that. Cooked, let’s say. Then Corrine and an unknown farmer came into my live & bulldozed that into oblivion. You all know that.

Now I really like tomatoes, in season. I still kind of find winter tomatoes repulsive. So now, possibly more than any other food in the world, I’m vaguely obsessed with finding a way to preserve this for the future. Of course, I’m pretty new at this “preserving things”, so it’s going slowly.

The other day I managed to can a dozen pint jars of tomatoes. I don’t know if that’s a reasonable size or not, but I decided it seemed better than quarts for a family of two. Of course, at the tomato canning workshop I went to, we did everything in quarts, and I think the teacher, “Lady Ovenshire”: probably cans into quarts for one or two people. But, still, I was cautious.

I’ll report back next year.

However, to my amazement, tomato season isn’t quite done here in Chicago. And, like a glutton for punishment, I am trying to get a few more things set aside. While planning a wedding long-distance and running a market. And, unlike many people I know on the internet, I am not great at doing all of that. But I’m learning & I think it’s going well.

Yesterday I went to the Daley Center Farmers Market and saw some more tomatoes. And also the sign saying this was the last of them. So I bought about 8 lbs. I almost bought more, but remembered myself and my wedding planning. I also knew I only needed 6 lbs for the plan I had. Namely to make this “tomato sauce”: for the freezer.

Now, I’m not going to lie – I don’t know how well this is going to freeze. I do know, though, there’s only one way to find out. Bill & I have had this sauce twice this year. Once it was AMAZING and thick and lovely. The second time it was kind of pasta soup. I’d blame the tomatoes on the second one, but I didn’t use plum tomatoes in either case.

Anyway, I can’t report much more right now, as the batch is on the stove. The oil is infusing with New Mexican red pepper flakes, basil from my garden (my basil plants are so sad), and garlic from my CSA. Garlic which I forgot to add in the beginning. Luckily for me she directs that you infuse “over the lowest heat so that they take a long time to come to a simmer”, so I have some time to get some of that delicious garlic flavor in there. I’m also lucky because I have a simmer burner on my stove, so the lowest heat is astoundingly low. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to miss out on much garlic flavor, even though I didn’t start it right away.

My Italian ancestors may be turning in their graves right now. And my living Italian grandmother is feeling a weird emotional pain that says, “Natasha is doing something boneheaded in the kitchen again.” Grandmothers have that kind of magic.

Sorry, Grandma! I love you!

HOWEVER! I do have a good garlic back-up plan. One of my vendors at my market sells garlic jelly. No joke! The first time I made this recipe, I forgot garlic right up until the end. (Sorry, Grandma! I love you!) I spooned in about a half-teaspoonful of the garlic jelly, and it perked it right up! I’ll do so again if needed.

The recipe calls for “finishing” with butter (and diluting a bit with pasta water). I’ll do that once I thaw it & reheat it. I’m not sure why, but that seems to be the wisest way to do this.

Man, I’m excited to pull this out in winter. Or maybe early spring. Of course, first I have to finish it. I’m excited about that too. It’s slow-going, though.