As you might recall from my Cheesy Meatballs post, I have an intense desire to be like a real Italian Mama one day. I want my children to adore me like Italian children adore their mothers and I want my children to know that at my house, there will always be food and laughter to comfort and nourish them. But, just like I said in my Cheesy Meatballs post, I can dream of being a little Italian Mama until I’m blue in the face, because I’ll never be little nor Italian. But what I can do, is strive to cook like one.
I might have the wrong idea here, but I always imagine Italian mothers, during the Summer months when tomatoes are just perfect, cooking pots full of home-made pasta sauce (Marinara as the Americans call it). I imagine them sterilising bottles then filling them with the fragrant and bright red pureed tomatoes. All in preparation for the cold Winter months when the tomatoes won’t be sweet and juicy but they still want to taste that freshness. In my head, this all happens in Tuscany.
In my kitchen, the closest my family gets to home-made tomato pasta sauce is if I jazz up a few tins of chopped tomatoes, which I’ve done to great effect before. But last week I bought an entire box (about 50) bright red tomatoes and I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with them. I bought them because they smelt of Summer and I imagine Italy to smell just like that. Like juicy, fresh tomatoes, perfectly ripe and perfectly red. As my husband helped me carry the groceries into the house he asked me what on earth I was going to do with all these tomatoes. Especially because I don’t like storing tomatoes in the fridge and because they would go off in the terrible heat we are experiencing.
That’s when I decided to use them all in a delicious Marinara (said with a real ‘rrrr’ sound, not an American ‘r’ sound) sauce. I started Googling recipes and found that most people simmer the tomatoes with onions, garlic and herbs and then puree and strain the tomatoes. That sounded all well and dandy but I just didn’t think that would add that oomph I was after. The logical explanation to me when you want to extract some serious flavour, is to roast it. So I threw all the ingredients into my biggest roasting tray and allowed the oven to do all the work. I roasted them (and actually forgot about them) for about 2 minutes too long, hence the amount of charred-ness on the tomatoes and onions. But I actually really like the amount of flavour that infused into the sauce, giving it a nice smokey flavour.
I also decided NOT to strain the sauce. I was planning to do just that but after pureeing the sauce I really liked the texture and so I decided to leave it just like that, but if you decided to strain the sauce, you might need to allow it to thicken a bit more in a pot on the stove just to really maximize on the flavour. Remember to make MUCH more than you bargain to use right away because this freezes incredibly well. And then, you always have fresh pasta sauce to your disposal. Perfect for Lasagna, Meatballs, even Enchilladas or Meatball sandwiches. Yum!!
Makes about 1l Marinara sauce
2kgs (4.41 pounds) ripe tomatoes, peeled and quartered
4 large onions, peeled and quartered
7 garlic cloves
5tbsn olive oil
3tbsn balsamic vinegar
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1-1/2 tbsn salt
freshly ground pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°c.
- Combine all the ingredients in a large roasting tray and place in the heated oven.
- Allow to roast for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables appear charred.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool down slightly.
- Puree the vegetables in a blender/food processor. Season to taste.
- At this point, you can strain the mixture through a sieve if desired. Place the strained sauce into a saucepan and allow to reduce and thicken slightly.
- If you’ll be freezing the sauce, pour it into freezable containers or freezer bags and label them with the date. Freeze for up to 3 months.