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How do you crush whole plum tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon? Anyone use a blender for this?

Just about every marinara recipe I come across says to use whole plum tomatoes and crush them with the back of a wooden spoon. Even the beloved Marcella Hazan (RIP). I however have never had sucess with this in practice. The tomatoes are never soft enough and they just break into big chunks rahter than a smooth silky texture. I end up with a large chunks of tomato and a watery sauce. It seems to me that the best way to handle this would be to pulse the tomatoes in a blender before adding them to the sauce. Does anyone already do this?

I also have a couple questions about simmering. How long do you simmer? How do you know when it is done? Is it supposed to be a bare simmer like chicken stock?

Thanks in advance!!

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  1. I usually take the lazy method and crush them by hand (just squish them into a bowl), which also allows you to pick out any unwanted bits. I've never had my marinara turn out watery with this method. I would not recommend a blender--the texture comes out too thin--but a quick pulse or two with the food processor might work. Just don't overprocess.

    5 Replies
    1. re: lisaonthecape

      I also dive right in and crush them by hand, but beware the splatter.

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        I always use hands too but yeah, make sure you wear an apron.

        1. re: lisaonthecape

          Hands or a scissor it works fine for me.

          1. I use my kitchen sheers and snip away at the tomatoes (in the can) until they are the consistency I am looking for.

            3 Replies
              1. re: pagesinthesun

                That sounds good with whole tomatoes but the San marzanos that I got today were actually crushed so I don't think the hand method or the shear method would work.

                1. re: Footballman407

                  If they're already crushed, then why do you need to do them any more?

              2. That technique is not meant to result in a smooth sauce. If you don't want chunks and bits of tomato in the sauce, go ahead and use a blender or food processor. You can simmer (gently bubbling) the sauce down to the desired thickness. There's no way it can be more watery than when chunks remain, since either way you are working with whatever liquids and solids were there when you began.

                1 Reply
                1. You squish them with your fingers, never the blender, IMO.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mcf

                    or use a food mill if you want silky smooth.

                    that's a gadget i don't own so just use my hands.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      indeed, the food mill is far and away the best tool for fruits (tomatoes are fruits, botanically if not culinarily). Better than a blender or food processor.

                  2. They'll also crush better if they're already warm. I, too, usually crush them with my fingers before I put them in the pot, and cook them down chunky. If I want a smoother sauce, I use an immersion blender right in the pot once the tomatoes have cooked down a bit.