As I mentioned in my last post (Confessions of a First Time Saucer, Part 1), we’ve started making our own marinara sauce. After a few frustrating encounters with our Back to Basics food mill, we’ve got our sauce making down to a science. And it’s So. Freaking. Good. We’ve got almost enough made to last us through the better part of the winter.
Want to make your own? Here are a few tips:
- The type of tomato you use makes a big difference. We’ve tried heirloom varieties like Black Krem and Beefsteak tomatoes. We’ve tried two varieties of Roma. The clear winner? Roma. In our food mill, Romas produce a thicker sauce. Heirlooms are great but tend to be a lot juicer, making a thinner, runnier sauce. They are sweeter, though, so we’ve started combining a few heirlooms with a larger amount of Romas. They (Romas) are also easier to send through the mill. We just cut off the top and throw it in the hopper and crank it through.
- It’s not necessary to skin and seed your tomatoes if you are using a food mill. We have been using the regular screen that came with our mill and will probably try out the coarser salsa screen to compare consistency soon. But all we do to our raw tomatoes is cut off the stem and cut them in large chunks (just small enough to fit through the hopper). If there are bad spots, a common issue with organic tomatoes, just cut them out.
- Many recipes I saw online said to cook from 45 minutes to a couple hours. We cook ours a lot longer than that. I think we’re averaging 4-6 hours with a quick stir every 30-60 minutes.
- The secret ingredient, hands-down, is butter. I’ve been adding 1-2 tablespoons of real butter to each batch and it’s amazing how much of a difference this little thing makes in the overall taste of the sauce. I added olive oil to the first batch and the sauce didn’t want to stick to our pasta… it slid right off the noodle. So now I omit olive oil and just use a dab of butter.
- Hubby wants me to add a few tips, too. 🙂 He says that larger chunks of tomatoes that barely fit through the hopper are better than small chunks. He also says that, if your strainer gets gunked up, send something firm like a fresh green bean through the hopper. It pushes the build-up pulp through and helps un-gunk it.
So from start to finish, here is our process:
- Rinse tomatoes.
- Cut into appropriate size to go through the food mill; strain through the mill. Throw away the seeds/skin
- Put the strainer juice/pulp into a large stockpot. Turn on medium heat.
- We add a ton of veggies to our sauce. We add grated zuchini, diced onions, shredded and diced carrots, diced celery, diced spinach, and whatever else we have on hand that sounds good. You could also add green peppers, green beans, or a host of other veggies. We add these extra vegetables for two reasons: health benefits and sauce consistency. The sauce made with heirlooms was quite thin so this helped thicken it up and add a little bit of texture. Plus the flavor with multiple vegetables tends to be a little more complex than a plain tomato sauce.
- Season the sauce. We used kosher salt, black pepper, dried thyme, several tablespoons of our homemade garlic/basil pesto, and some dried thyme.
- Let it simmer for several hours. If it’s thin, leave the cover off so it can thicken up. If it’s too chunky, use an immersion blender to break up some of the larger chunks of veggies.
- Finally, let it cool and either place it in jars or freezer safe ziploc bags. (Don’t put hot sauce in plastic bags or in the freezer… it needs to cool first for safety reasons.) Done.
Have you made marinara from scratch before? Do you have any tips to add to the list?
Next project: we would like to try homemade organic ketchup. Wish us luck!