Salsa di Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce)

For a perfect tomato sauce, choosing great tomatoes is key. It takes experience, time, and trial and error to see which ones work the best. The best sauces are the most simple, but the secret lies in the quality of the ingredients. The way my parents and grandparents make sauces is very different than the way I make them, because I style mine after the salsa fresca way of Southern Italy. This way uses sweet, ripe, low acid tomatoes that are high in flavor and require minimal cooking so it can be ready in a short time. There is no wine added, or long cooking times, just using fresh ingredients. But, it can cost more. Tomatoes are not cheap, at least the good ones aren’t. And, there are no canned tomatoes in my sauce. If you have to use cans of whole or chopped tomatoes just make sure you off set the acid with olive oil and sweeter (I use grated carrots to sweeten) and add some fresh tomatoes to it as well. San Marzano brand makes good canned plum tomatoes and puree for sauces.

When shopping for tomatoes, do not choose over watery tomatoes like the beefsteak kind or the ones with a light red color. Those are good for sandwiches but tend to lack flavor and be foam-like on the inside. Choose rich colors, dark red, purple, yellow, green, heirloom, organic, vine ripened, and tomatoes that feel ripe and soft to the touch. Cherry tomatoes also work great too as they are reliably sweet and stew nicely.

Salsa di Pomodoro

Yields: 10 cups

  • 10 or more fresh diced tomatoes (7 cups chopped) of high quality, dark red, ripe, soft, and sweet (or 2, 28oz cans of high quality plum tomatoes, San Marzano is best)
  • 3 grated carrots
  • 7 grated cloves garlic
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped Italian basil
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • optional; 1 bayleaf
  • a handful of fresh chopped basil to add last
  • salt, pepper, chili flakes

In a large ceramic or non stick skillet fry the onions and garlic in a little bit of oil. Once they golden, add the diced tomatoes, grated carrots, basil, and the olive oil. Keep on low heat with the lid on and stir often.  

After 15 minutes pour this mixture into a blender or food processor and blend on a low for 5 to 10 seconds, or pulse it a few times. You don't want to liquify it, you just want the carrots and tomatoes to coarsely puree.

Pour this back into the skillet, add the bayleaf, and continue to stir with a wooden spoon, putting the lid on in between stirring, for another 40-45 minutes.

When it starts to get more orange then it's getting closer. ALWAYS stir as often as you can and keep on low. Shut the heat off and cover it when you feel it's rich, subtle, and less acidic. Add the handful of fresh basil once it's cooled.

  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1.5 hour
  • Total time: 1.5 hours
Salsa Di Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce)

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