When fresh tomatoes are abundant this summer - and we have consumed all we can in salads, on sandwiches, grilled and in salsas before their beauty fades - we will long to make tomato sauce.
But there's a problem: For a classic lusty red pasta sauce, chefs actually tend to prefer canned tomatoes, says Richard Stuthmann, chief of instruction at Baltimore International College. Fresh tomatoes "aren't consistent," says Stuthmann, "and they aren't the red color we expect."
So take a middle ground and combine the bounty of the farmers' market and the garden with tomato paste to make a quick marinara. Because the tomatoes are fresh, they'll take less time to cook than canned: In about 30 minutes, your sauce should be ready for pasta. And if you end the season with lots of tomatoes, you can cool the sauce and freeze it for three to six months, to use when fresh tomatoes are but a tasty memory.
Use the reddest fresh tomatoes you can find. They can be overripe - just make sure they're not bruised or moldy. Tomatoes should be peeled and seeded before chopping.
You also can use fresh herbs; just be sure to add them near the end of the cooking process to preserve their flavor.
Penne is a great vehicle for this quick sauce, Stuthmann says. Any pasta with ribs also should work well.
Getting Saucy: How it's done
1. Finely chop onion, celery, carrot and garlic. In a pot, saute vegetables in olive oil only until they're tender (a process called "sweating").
2. Add tomato paste for color and taste. Stir until completely mixed with vegetables.
3. Stir chopped fresh tomatoes into the pot with salt, pepper, sugar and wine (if using). Lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes; tomatoes will release their moisture to make a lumpy sauce.
4. Stir in fresh herbs at the end of cooking (if using dried herbs, add with tomato paste). Serve immediately over a textured pasta, such as penne, or cool and freeze.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) finely diced onion
1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) diced celery
1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) finely diced carrot
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart fresh tomatoes (about 2 pounds), medium dice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Heat olive oil in medium saucepot. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Saute until vegetables are tender, approximately 1 minute. Do not brown.
Add tomato paste, stirring to incorporate into vegetables. Add fresh tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and wine, if desired. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add fresh basil and parsley, stir and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Serve immediately over pasta, meat, poultry or seafood, or cool for later use.
Recipe courtesy of Richard Stuthmann, director of instruction at Baltimore International College
Per serving ( 1/2 cup, sauce only): 157 calories, 1 gram protein, 14 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 8 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 589 milligrams sodium