Tomato Sauce

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Feb 28, 2011
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I made some tomato sauce today and took some pictures so I figured I would share. I don't measure, so the measurements in parenthesis are estimates.


Sweet/White/Spanish/Vidalia Onions (about 4 large)
Garlic (about 2 heads)
Canned whole San Marzano tomatoes (4 28oz cans)
Canned diced San Marzano tomatoes (1 28oz can)
Tomato juice (1 48oz can)
Balsamic vinegar (1/2 cup)
Extra virgin olive oil (1 cup)
Basil (3 sprigs)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


First thing I did was preheated my oven to 500 degrees. While you are waiting for it to heat, you can prep your other ingredients. First thing I did was attack the onions. I used 4 or 5 large softball size sweet onions, but any onion similar will work. I cut one half up in a fine dice, and the rest I cut into 3/8" slices.


I don't have any pictures of the bigger pieces of onion, but you will see it later. Exact size or consistent cuts are not that important.

I also shucked about 2 or 3 heads of garlic, and minced 6 or so cloves of that. I left the rest of the cloves whole. I will be roasting those in a minute.


I used my CCK 1303 for mincing the garlic.

Here is the large slices of onion after being in the pan for awhile. I caramelize the onions, and you want to get this started first as it takes the longest. I just start with some extra virgin olive oil in the pan and some sea salt on the onions. Start it with the lid on over med-high heat, the onions will give off a lot of liquid, and when they start to get color remove the lid, lower the heat, and just keep stirring. Scrape any "fond" that forms on the pan.


You have your onions going, your other onions and garlic diced, and your oven hot, so now it is tomato time. Drain the liquid off the whole tomatoes and either cut them open or just break them open with your fingers. You don't need to cut them, they are very soft, but they do like to explode and spray you with juice, so sometimes slitting them with a paring knife helps prevent this. Remove the seeds, I do this over the liquid I drained off. Don't worry about the seeds, we will strain it later. Lay the tomatoes on a sheet tray, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and season with sea salt and fresh black pepper. I believe it is important to season as you go, if you don't use any salt the entire process and then try to salt at the end when it's done, it just get seasoned properly. It just tastes flat, flat, flat, and then all of a sudden it is salty. You need to build layers of flavor, and season as you go. When you get to the end, you often don't need to salt it at all. I ended up making about 5 quarts of sauce, and only added 1 pinch of salt once it was all together.


Throw these in the oven, we are going to roast them until they start to get some color on them. I am not sure how long it took, I would guess 30-45 minutes. I had a small tube of tomato paste left over, and I squeezed that onto the tray as well, but it isn't necessary.

Strain the liquid and seeds you drained off through a strainer. Pull out any basil leaves from the canned tomatoes, try to flick the seeds off of them and add them to the strained juice. I use a spoon to move seeds and help force the liquid through, but the fastest way is to lightly tap the strainer on whatever container you are draining into.


Get your sauce pot out. Coat the bottom with some extra virgin olive oil, add your diced onion. Salt. Sweat the onion until translucent.


Add the minced garlic, saute until you start to get some color, and then add the liquid you drained and strained. Also add the can of diced tomatoes. Salt. Pepper.


Remember the whole garlic cloves from before? Sure you do. Get a small sauce pan, throw them in there, add some extra virgin olive oil, and roast over med-high heat. I just let it go like this, stirring occasionally. When you start to see them getting some light brown color on the edges, kill the heat and let the carry over heat finish softening the cloves.


How are the onions? Make sure to keep stirring them and scraping the fond. I like using a metal fish spatula.


My tomatoes finished about this time. I forgot to take a picture of them, but they got a little dark brown/black coloring on the tops of them. Just scoop them off the sheet tray and add them to your sauce.


I use a whisk and wooden spoon to kinda mash and break up the bodies of the tomatoes. I like a chunky rustic sauce so this works pretty well. But if you want it smoother, you will have to break out the blender.

I also use the fish spatula to cut up and break apart the caramelized onions, by the time they are finished they are almost a paste. I added those to the sauce as well. I then used the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan and scape off any fond that was still stuck on, and added that to the sauce as well.


Roasted garlic from before. Mash em up with a spoon, add em to the sauce too.


I also add the canned tomato juice at this point, and the basil, cut however you like. Let it cook on low, I'm not sure how long exactly, I just go until the sauce mellows and looses it's bitterness. This actually takes less time that usual, because you roasted the whole tomatoes before adding them to the sauce. Somewhere in the range of 45-90 minutes. Check for seasoning. I added a little bit of salt, pepper, and garlic oil from when we roasted the garlic.


Hooray! You are done! Now you can eat it. I made some mussels, so I put it on that. Also good for pizza, pasta, you know the drill. Mangia!

Hey JohnnyC, great marinara WIP thread
Looks delicious.

Picked up a few new ideas, thanks for the post...
Nice work. I love the step by step instructions with pictures.

Thank you for the write up. This is the reason I frequent the forums. As a home cook,I like to see what others are doing and their techniques. This forum rocks.
Looks really good! Not exactly in accordance with any of my family recipes, though :)

I've seen AB use the roasted tomato method, and have been meaning to try it; the carmalized onions and roasted garlic look like nice additions. I'm guessing the sauce tends towards being a little sweet?
Really nice thread. I used to try to push the KF folks to publish "action shots" by posting threads similar to this.... It would catch on for a few days and then die off. Please keep the pictures coming :)
The dish you made is one of my favs. However I use a chilli in the sause to make it hot, I also use fresh pepper. Resently I bought some hot spiece sauce (1,5mill) and it made the dish perfect. Served with bread and butter, and a cheap riesling. Its amazing how this dish can turn a cheap badtaste riesling to a heavenly match :)

Thanks for sharing :)
Looks really good! Not exactly in accordance with any of my family recipes, though :)

I've seen AB use the roasted tomato method, and have been meaning to try it; the carmalized onions and roasted garlic look like nice additions. I'm guessing the sauce tends towards being a little sweet?

Yes, I know many Italian grandmothers would faint if they saw me making it this way. I wouldn't say it is sweet, but it is very well balanced and not at all "biting" or bitter. I find when you add sugar to tomato sauce, the sweetness is kinda isolated and artificial tasting. Like you can tell sugar was added. This has a more natural, cooked-in taste. More like you only used the freshest, ripest, sweetest heirloom tomatoes, and cooked them for hours and hours. The San Marzanos make really nice sauce tomatoes, and this helps, and then getting color on them and the onions does as well. This was cooking for only a total of 90-120 minutes I would say, but even after 30 minutes it perfectly acceptable to serve with pasta. Dinner wasnt ready yet, so I let it keep cooking on super low until I was ready.

You can eat it with bread, pasta, or pizza, and its perfectly tangy and sweet enough for any of these applications, without being overly sweet or tangy. And if you make it and you find it is too sweet, try deglazing with red wine vinegar instead of balsamic, and caramelizing your onions less.

Not bad for a non-NYer.:p

I could take that intravenously!
I have my tomatoes, garlic and onion under the broiler now Thanks for the tips!
This was good for dinner last night with homemade pasta. Yum. thanks.
Looks good Jim. Had leftovers tonight myself: pasta, sauce, and hot italian sausage.
Thank you for the suggestion John:)
That is a great looking sauce. The only thing I would do differently is NOT use canned diced tomatoes. To my palate they always taste metallic, so I prefer to use whole tomatoes and dice them myself. Apart from that small quibble, I love what you've done!
I wasn't actually planning on using the diced. I just found a can of them when I was taking inventory of my dry goods and figured I would use them up. I know what you are talking about with the metallic taste, but I didnt notice any this time. Maybe because it was a small percentage of the tomatoes used.