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Sep 4, 2011 05:47 PM

Recipe needed for Tomato Sauce w/ Heirloom Tomatoes

I was just given about 20 pounds of heirloom tomatoes by some super nice friends.

Can someone point me to a recipe for tomato sauce using these tomatoes? Something like a Marinara or Arrabiata would be nice.

I've never made sauce from raw tomatoes. Do I need to skin them? Roast them first?


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    1. This was posted on the famous DavesGarden site and became an instant favorite:

      Bluekat76's Recipe for Roasted Tomato Sauce
      4 pounds tomatoes, stemmed and quartered
      1 large red onion (or 2-3 small), roughly chopped.
      (OK to substitute yellow or other onions)
      2 Jalepeno peppers (remove seeds for less heat)
      16 cloves fresh garlic
      1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive oil
      1 Tbs dry oregano
      (or a bunch of fresh oregano & basil)
      Combine ingredients in a 9x13 inch pan.
      Roast at 450°F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until juices get thick.
      Tomatoes will get a bit blackened and will smell wonderful.
      Let cool, and run through a food mill to remove skins & seeds.
      The resulting puree will be nice & thick; no need to reduce.
      Season to taste with salt and pepper.

      1 Reply
      1. Do you know exactly what kind of heirloom tomatoes they are? Heirloom tomatoes cover a lot of different breeds with a lot of different characteristics.

        "Do I need to skin them?"
        Depends on whether tomato skin bothers you in a sauce. It tends to curl up into long strands that are sort of papery. Or if you puree your tomato sauce, skins can make the puree a bit grittier. It's a textural thing. If this sounds like it might bother you, you can remove the skins by blanching the tomatoes for about a minute in boiling water and then remove to an ice bath. The skins peel easier that way. Alternately, you can cut the tomatoes in half and then grate them, tossing the leftover skins afterward.

        "Roast them first?"
        Again, depends on the effect you want. Roasting them on lowish-medium temperature creates a sun-dried tomato flavor that's a little different from the fresh tomato flavor in other sauces. Roasting them on high temperature can blister the tomatoes and create a toasty fire-roasted flavor that can also be nice when desired (I like this effect for salsas).

        With a lot of heirloom tomatoes, the best part about them is the intensity of flavor. So if I have good tomatoes, I usually make a sauce that really highlights that tomato flavor. Here's a basic example of an intensely tomato-y sauce:
        - Saute half a small onion in a 12 inch saute pan with a generous coating of olive oil on low until soft.
        - Add garlic as desired
        - Cut a few pounds of tomatoes in half and remove the seeds and liquid to a strainer. Discard the seeds but keep the fresh tomato water for later.
        - Dice the tomatoes into small cubes (obviously, I don't often worry about the skin)
        - Add the tomatoes into the pot along with maybe 1/8 cup of red wine and a generous pinch of salt
        - Crush the tomatoes in the pot as they cook with a potato masher
        - Cook uncovered for maybe 45 minutes to an hour on low-medium. Deliberately over-reduce the sauce just a bit.
        - Taste and adjust salt. Add a tiny pinch of sugar if needed.
        - Turn the heat to the lowest setting and re-hydrate the sauce with the reserved tomato liquid (this really amps up the tomato flavor, and justifies the use of good heirloom tomatoes in the sauce). Add the liquid in small amounts until the desired consistency is met - you may not need all the tomato liquid. If your sauce isn't fully rehydrated once you use up the tomato liquid (or if the sauce is getting too acidic before you're done rehydrating), you can use water.
        - If serving the sauce with pasta right then, add a splash of starchy pasta water along with pasta.
        - While stirring vigorously and constantly, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil and several tablespoons of butter, one at a time.
        - Turn off heat and add a small handful of fresh basil.

        Obviously, the amounts are pretty rough. But they depend on the qualities of the tomatoes, and as I said above, heirloom tomatoes vary quite a bit in their qualities.

        1. As others have said, there are lots of types of heirloom tomatoes. But most of the heirloom varieties that are popular, at least here in the US, are not the type you'd want for a tomato sauce. If they're not a paste / sauce type of heirloom (Amish Paste, Mama Leone, Roma varietals like the San Marzano, etc.), my guess is you may not have great results making a cooked sauce with them. The big heavy ones with a lot of water content are great for eating raw, but tend to either be too watery or just kind of disappear when made into sauce. Also, they are difficult to seed / peel, and hard to work with in general once they're very ripe.

          Gazpacho might work - I have had some excellent heirloom tomato gazpacho this season. You could also make an uncooked or barely cooked sauce like a checca, which should work well with pasta, but obviously couldn't be canned or frozen.

          1. You're not going to get rid of twenty pounds this way, but when it comes to pasta our experience with most readily available varieties of heirlooms is to steer clear of sauce. We tend to enjoy them cut into wedges and sauteed with some olive oil or butter, salt, and fresh herbs before tossing with homemade pasta and maybe some cheese and coarse black pepper.