The days when you need a blanket to sleep at night but need sunglasses and a tank top by the afternoon. The days when the leaves aren’t quite changing, but the air is. The days when you cuddle your hot cup of morning coffee but still want an icy lemonade with dinner.
I love this time of year. It’s still summer, but it’s thinking about being fall. Flowers are blooming, but you can also occasionally hear some ahead-of-the-game geese flying overhead in the evening. The farmers markets in Minnesota are at their peak, but it’s not too hot too cook anymore.
And these are good days for pasta, one of the best vehicles around for all of summer’s goodness. I’ll be real – we use our fair share of jarred pasta sauce – you know, for those days when the lists are long and the errands are endless…or the days when you just kind of have to be outside because it’s gorgeous – but when I have a little extra time, I love to make a big batch of this sauce.
This year, I’m not sure I’ll get to much canning, but I’m planning on spending a Saturday making a mega pot of this sauce to freeze. This is our go-to homemade sauce. I make this all year long – using canned tomatoes whenever fresh aren’t in season. It only takes about a half hour of work, and then another 45 minutes of cooking.
This sauce is fairly basic: you can add to it as much as you like. It starts with a simple mirepoix that gets fancied up with some garlic, balsamic vinegar, and fresh or dried herbs depending on what’s available. Matched with summer’s tomatoes, it blows jarred varieties out of the water. I can only hope that you drag yourself away from this perfect weather for an extra half hour this month and give it a try.
(recipe inspired one from Smitten Kitchen )
(yields 4-5 c. of sauce)
This basic tomato sauce recipe is rich with flavor and makes good use of all that summer produce - but it can also be made with canned tomatoes throughout the whole year. It's very adaptable, and you can feel free to add whatever you like (mushrooms, bell peppers, etc.). You can easily multiply this recipe and freeze in small portions for use throughout the year!
1/4 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled, and minced
2 stalks celery, ends trimmed minced
1 small onion, minced
4 lbs. fresh tomatoes (I like romas) OR two 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
dash red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. fresh basil, minced OR 1 tbsp. dried basil
1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced OR 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 sprig fresh oregano, leaves only, minced OR 1 tsp. dried oregano
Prepare tomatoes if using fresh:
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. As it heats up, score the bottoms of your tomatoes with a shallow X. Drop a few tomatoes at a time in the boiling water, and leave for about 30 seconds-1 minute. When you begin to see the tomato skins split up the side, remove from the hot water and place in cold water. Repeat with all tomatoes.
When tomatoes have cooled, carefully peel away the skins.
Remove the cores and squeeze out the tomato seeds. Chop into large chunks. Set tomatoes aside.
Prepare your vegetables:
I like to use a food processor to mince up my garlic, carrots, celery, and onions into tiny pieces, but if you like a chunkier sauce, either process yours less or cut with a knife into larger chunks.
Make your sauce:
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic, carrots, celery, and onions, and cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes or until they take on a bit of color. Add your prepared (or canned) tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
If using dried herbs, add them at this point.
Allow sauce to simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened to your liking. I like to leave the lid on but ajar so moisture can escape but my stovetop isn't super splattered with sauce.
About five minutes before your sauce is finished (or after about 40 minutes), add your fresh herbs if using, and stir in.
Taste for salt and pepper.