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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.

                    1. If you want a really smooth, silky texture, start from passata (tomato puree) rather than crushed tomatoes.

                      1. i read a memorial on her in the NYT yesterday and discovered said treasured marinara recipe, i actually had to read it out loud to my boyfriend it seemed such a revelation.

                        my thought is that once they have warmed, they are a bit easier to crush with the back of a wooden spoon. depending on the depth of your saucepan, you could use the sides as leverage?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: cozylummox

                          This is essentially what I do, except I give them a rough chop with a spoon when I first put them in the saucepan. Then periodically during cooking I mash them with a spoon against the bottom or sides. It's pretty smooth after 45 minutes of simmering and a bit of mashing.

                          1. re: ARenko

                            Typically after a brie hand crush or chop, the tomatoes will disintegrate through cooking time. If they aren't breaking down it is due to heat and cook time.

                            1. re: melpy

                              My experience as well. I really don't need to do much mashing - heat and time do most of the work.

                        2. Sledge-O-Matic. Sorry, Gallagher was in town last weekend.

                          I either simmer to the taste I want or until I can't wait any longer. No kidding on that response.

                          1. I use a potato masher-
                            easy no mess-and clean hands

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: Njchicaa

                                Potato masher is best. Use a squiggly wire type. You do not want a pure. When eaten, the chunks of tomato will add a natural flavour burst to your recipe.

                            1. If you want a smooth sauce, you must blend after the simmering and not before.

                              1. +1 on the potato masher.

                                1. and how do you crush italian sausages with the back of a wooden spoon? a lot of recipes say that but i find this almost impossible..I just use my hands.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Monica

                                    Same here or a new favorite method is to sort of scrape bits off as I throw it in the pan or use a fork.

                                    1. re: Monica

                                      Usually I remove the casing/skin, and when placing into the pan try to put in as small chunks as possible...then crush with a wooden spoon throughout cooking. You'll need a friend to help you wash your hands- it's messy. Also, It always gets a little easier as they cook.

                                      1. re: cozylummox

                                        Yes, that's what I do...i usually wear disposable plastic gloves when removing casing and cutting into small pieces with hands...

                                    2. Go to your local hardware store and get a food mill. As for cook time, an hour should suffice for maranara.

                                      1. Based on a theory I read at a pizza making webpage that said canned tomatoes should be rinsed (to remove the "can taste") and de-seeded (cause the seeds are bitter) I "process" them under running tap water. After draining in a strainer, I usually use my immersion blender, but sometimes just use my hands.

                                        1. When making my Bolognese, I usually crush my tomatoes about halfway through the cooking process with a wooden spoon. They appear to thicken the sauce better this way. Don't know why. Probably a chemical reaction. As for simmering, one hour is usually norm.

                                          1. I use a stick blender after they have been simmering. That has worked just fine for me.

                                            1. potato masher, etc..they all all fine except it creates more dishes and potato masher isn't so easy to wash!!