Delicious as a roasted sauce is, sometimes it’s just not feasible to spend 3 to 4 hours preparing and cooking a gang of tomatoes. I’ll just have to wait to be somebody’s grandfather to spend all day in the kitchen / on the couch napping. However, pulling together a quick and flavorful sauce is easy and, let’s be honest, sometimes quick and easy is all we really want.  The following is my standard procedure and parts lists for when I use crushed or diced canned tomatoes, but this still being the season for fresh, I substituted the standard 28-ounce can of the red stuff for roughly a pound and a half of fat, ripe orange tomatoes.

The only slightly technical part of making this sauce involved blanching. This process is used to remove the skin from any soft-fleshed fruit or vegetable (tomatoes, peaches, etc.) and is much less daunting to execute than it seems. For ease of use, I’ll explain everything simply and also use pictures to demonstrate. I know you really just want to look at the pictures anyway.

Blanching Your Tomatoes

  1. Put a pot of water on to boil. There must be enough water to submerge the tomatoes, but since we’ll be boiling pasta later (using the same water), use whatever pot you would use for boiling pasta.
  2. Fill a large bowl with cold water and a few cups of ice (also called an “ice bath”).
  3. Cut a shallow “X” in the bottom of each tomato. This will allow the water get underneath the tomato skins.

    Don't cut deep. Be all gentle-like.

    Tomatoes before blanching. Yellow = mo betta.

  4. Place tomatoes in boiling water (this is the actual blanch) and allow to cook for no more than 90 seconds (we’re not cooking the tomatoes yet!). Remove the tomatoes when you see the skin splitting from the “X” up the sides.
  5. Place tomatoes in ice bath for about a minute. Notice how the skins will shrivel and shrink around the meat of the tomatoes.

    Wrinkled like your grandfather's...face.

    The shrinking is kind of like Botox. Except in reverse. Or something.

  6. Remove peel with you hands, being careful not to smush the softer inner meat of the tomatoes.  

    STOP STARING. THEY'RE NAKED.

    Post-blanch, revealing the soft inner flesh.

That’s honestly the hardest part of the whole process. Blanching, as mentioned before, is also good for things like peaches, various nuts with skins like peanuts, almonds, and pistachios, and also small onions. It’s one of those small steps that is worth the little amount of effort required, as it makes a big difference in a finished dish. To finish, carefully slice and dice the newly-naked tomatoes and set aside.

The red Ikea cutting board makes the color even more INTENSE.

Blanched, sliced, and diced.

Now on to the sauce! In a wide pot or sauté pan (flat bottom, straight sides), add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some sliced, not minced, garlic. The larger pieces will have less bite and fire than minced garlic, and will get sweeter as a sauce cooks. Set the pot / pan over medium low heat and allow the garlic to take on just a bit of color over the next 5-7 minutes.

Olive oil and garic = Everything important in life.

Toasted, golden, and just barely brown around the edges.

After the garlic is golden (but not dark!), add onion and pepper. I happened to have what is called a “long hot,” or essentially the red version of the green poblano pepper, which gave the sauce a gentle heat and removed my usual addition of crushed red pepper flakes. Allow this to cook for at least 5 minutes as well, and enjoy as your kitchen is perfumed with the wonderful aromatics.

Aromatics getting sexy.

Breathe deep, and smell the old country.

Once the aromatics are soft and fragrant, you can go ahead and add the tomato (fresh or, if not summer, canned). However, if you have another 10 minutes to spare, you can allow the aromatics to keep cooking, developing deeper flavors and bringing out their natural sugars. Either way, once the tomatoes go in, allow everything to cook for about 10 minutes, during which time the tomatoes will break down, some of the water will cook out, and the flavors will get to know each other a little bit.

Yeah, definitely would be red.

Note: canned tomatoes will probably be red.

To finish, give the sauce a taste. Add some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and some crushed red pepper flakes if you want some heat.  If you’re using canned tomatoes, I recommend at least a teaspoon of sugar to cut the acidity. For herbs, I just tore some fresh leaves of basil and stirred them in after I turned the heat off of the sauce, but oregano and parsley would be great too.

Shakespeare was a big fan of tomatoes. I think.

5 minutes later, and thou havest sauce.

Ingredients 

  • One standard 28-ounce can of diced (or crushed) low-sodium tomatoes OR about 1.5 pounds of fresh tomatoes, blanched and diced (see directions above)
  • 4 – 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • Fresh basil, parsley, and/or oregano (but definitely fresh basil. dried oregano is okay, too.)
  • Crushed red pepper flake (optional)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil

Procedure

  1. Slice the garlic into thin rounds and add to a cold pan with 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gently cook the garlic over medium-low heat until just barely toasted / golden, about 4 – 5 minutes.
  2. Add the onion and pepper, boost the heat to medium, and season with a big pinch of kosher salt. Cook for at least 5 minutes stirring often. If a sweeter and deeper flavor is desired, continue cooking for up to 12 – 15 minutes. JUST DON’T BURN YOUR SHIT.
  3.  Stir in the tomatoes and allow to cook, still over medium heat, for another 5 minutes, or until tomatoes soften and a sauce begins to form.
  4. Finish sauce with fresh herbs and . Add seasoning to taste. Add sugar, in small increments, to cut the acidity. Add crushed red pepper flake if desired.

    That Ikea table is getting a lot of camera time.

    Paired with tortellini LIKE A BOSS.

– Max.