When you have tomatoes but no time, try the Lazy Cook’s Fresh Tomato Sauce! It’s simple, easy, fast, but keeps the wonderful fresh flavor of your tomatoes.
Well, maybe the cook isn’t lazy. Maybe the cook is just tired, or rushed, or harried. Maybe s/he is already elbow deep in another project, but just noticed that the tomatoes are starting to go soft and should be used at once. Maybe the cook simply has better things to do tonight…
There are great recipes for fresh tomato sauce. This isn’t one of them. This is a perfectly pleasant, very useful basic tomato sauce that you can use on its own, or season further for other recipes. It preserves the fresh tomato flavor. It preserves tomatoes that need to be used Now. It preserves your sanity and energy when it is not a good time to launch into serious cooking…
Most recipes for fresh tomato sauce tell you to remove the peel and seeds, and give you a method to do so. Classically, you cook the tomatoes and then pass it through some sort of strainer, so you get all the flavor but without the texture issues. We’re just going to skip that, put it all in a food processor., and accept that we won’t have a beautifully smooth sauce. (This does mean that you should only do this if everyone who will eat it can eat whole raw tomatoes. Not an issue for most people, but there are some who have issues with seeds or peels – don’t make this for them.)
Start with roughly a quart of diced tomatoes – that seems to be a good workable amount in most food processors. I’m not going to tell you how many tomatoes that is, because that will vary. Are they large or small? Are they juicy and heavy? (Did you have to cut out soft or even moldy parts? Because that might be the reason you’re using this method…) Plum tomatoes will give you a thicker sauce, but you can use slicers, you just may need to simmer them longer, later, to get the texture you want. I would not tend to use cherry or other small tomatoes, here – the ratio of skin to pulp is a bit high. (On the other hand, I pop them in the freezer!) So really, if you get much less than a quart, fine, you may just want to adjust other ingredients. If you have more, do it in more than one batch.
Actually – start with an onion. Chop it roughly, heat oil in a pan, and let the onion cook while you wash, trim and chop your tomatoes. Add two cloves of garlic at the end (it can get bitter if it overcooks.) I used a large onion… If you want to add fresh hot peppers, or anything like that, this would be the time.
So your onion is cooking gently, you just added the garlic, and you stir it every so often. You have trimmed your tomatoes, and chopped them very roughly. Just dump them all in the food processor and puree. Now, if you have fresh basil and/or oregano, pull the leaves off the woody stems and add it. (And that is what I will write in the recipe.) I had some I’d already pureed and frozen, so I added it later. If you have none fresh, you can add a teaspoon each of dried, now. Toss in the salt, too. Add the onion and garlic. Puree some more – you want the peel very finely chopped, but you still have a little texture – it is sauce, not juice.
Now pour it all back into the saute pan or frying pan in which you cooked the onion. A wide flat pan is best, because you want to have some of the liquid cook away rapidly, without overcooking the tomato. Bring it to a boil, and stir.
This will vary considerably, depending on how pulpy or liquid your tomatoes are in the first place, and what you want your sauce to end up like. I had very dense, large plum tomatoes with relatively little juice, so I brought it to a boil and boiled, stirring, for only a few minutes before I had a thick sauce. But if you have very juicy tomatoes, this could take as long as ten minutes. It will probably be somewhere in between. Do stir often – that helps release steam. (This, by the way, is when I added the frozen pureed herbs.) The goal is minimal cooking to retain the fresh flavor.
And there you have it.
This is, for cooking purposes, what you use as a better form of the canned tomato sauce, not a full, seasoned pasta sauce. I simmered pork chops in it, I used it with eggs… If I wanted to serve it over pasta, I’d add a little something – it’s a good base for Pasta Puttanesca. I asked Rich what he thought of it, and he said “Nice, but you’ve made better.” And, well, I know that – but this is just a base. But the lightly cooked, fresh tomato flavor is so different from canned! There is a pint of it in the freezer now… that will be the base of a quick meal, one of these days. If you know you will want to use it as is, you may want to just increase the aromatics – more herbs, more garlic, hot pepper… whatever you prefer in a sauce. But one goal is to avoid the long simmer of classic tomato sauce – keep that fresh flavor!
And be able to do it when you have only twenty minutes to deal with a basket of tomatoes.
Yields 3-4 c
When you have tomatoes but no time, try the Lazy Cook's Fresh Tomato Sauce! It's simple, easy, fast, but keeps the wonderful fresh flavor of your tomatoes.
10 minPrep Time
10 minCook Time
20 minTotal Time
- olive oil for the pan
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 quart diced fresh tomatoes (not peeled)
- 2 T fresh basil
- 2 T fresh oregano
- 1 t salt
- Heat oil in a wide fry pan. Saute the onion while you wash, trim, and dice your tomatoes. Then add garlic to the pan.
- Process tomatoes in a food processor. Add herbs and salt, and the onion mixture. Process some more until the sauce is relatively smooth.
- Pour tomatoes back into the pan in which you cooked the onion. Bring to a boil, and boil, stirring often, to let liquid evaporate. This will probably be only a few minutes, until you get the consistency you want.
- Serve, or use as a base in another recipe.