San Marzano! Oh My!

Its the time of year when I get overwhelmed by my garden.  San MarzanoIts time to harvest the tomatoes.  And they aren’t just tomatoes, they’re San Marzano tomatoes.  Flavor so sweet, you can’t make an awesome homemade italian sauce without ’em!

I was going to take a couple dozen to work and let everyone take some but, of course, I forgot them.  I just can’t let ingredients like these go to waste.  ingredientsIt just wouldn’t be right.

So today I decided to let the tomatoes show me what they are made of, and boy did they not disappoint.

After harvesting about 30 tomatoes, I decided that was probably enough to make a good amount of sauce.  I put them in a pot of cold water to start rinsing off.  There are only a few ingredients needed to make an awesome sauce so I stuck to the basics here.  Onions, garlic, tomatoes, dried italian seasoning (I know…Lazy Cook), white wine, salt pepper, and some oil/butter.

As always, you want to get all of your ingredients mise en place so they are ready to go when you start cooking.  With that, I first reached for the gigantic walla Onionwalla onion.  So sweet, you could almost eat it whole.  I quickly chopped the whole thing into medium pieces, peeled and minced a clove of jumbo garlic, and put it all in a bowl.  I guess it would be best if you chopped these two things before the tomatoes since there will be a lot more juice in those babies.

When you get to the tomatoes, there is one of two ways you can do this…you can cut a cross with a paring knife on the bottom of the tomatoes and blanch them, or you can just cut the stem side off and chop these into chunks the same size as the onion and cook them with the skin on.  This will require you to skim off the skins during cooking but you are already tending your pot anyway so its not that bad (again, a Lazy Cook).

I personally chose to do the skimming, of course.  When you are done chopping the tomatoes, whether you blanched or not, put these in a bowl with a nice pinch of salt and stir them, coating scantily with the salt so they can caramelize nicely when we get to that part.

Next, it wouldn’t be a great sauce without some meat.  SausageI wished I had some hot italian sausage to go with these tomatoes, but all I found in the fridge was some basil chicken sausages.  I know…what am I thinking with the processed foods again…but I was starving and it was going in.  First dry the sausages with some paper towel.  If there is any moisture on them when you put them in, they will steam instead of sear.  Chopped of course the same size as the rest and put in a bowl.

Get together the seasonings, an open bottle of white wine, some vegetable broth, and the veggies you just chopped and let’s get ready to cook.

Mise en Place

One of the first things I learned was that you should preheat the pan or pot you will be using.  Just a minute or so should work.  A couple tablespoons of olive oil goes in next.  Heat until the oil starts to shimmer then add the sausage and a pinch of kosher salt.  In case you were wondering, salt helps food release their natural sugar which when you sear them, you get a nice golden color.  Stir the sausage every once in a while until they are nicely seared. Put them in a bowl for later.  Now what are left with in the pot is what is called fond.  Those awesome little bits of the protein that stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add a bit of olive oil, if its necessary, and reheat the oil.

Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  These you’ll want to caramelize so they have that extra punch of flavor in the sauce.  To help them achieve that nice golden color, sprinkle a nice pinch of kosher salt into them and stir occasionally until they start to brown on the edges.  At this point, you’ll want to add 1/2 cup of the dry white wine.  Let this reduce down until almost gone then add the tomatoes, keeping enough aside to add at the end…you decide how chunky you want it.  Caramelize the tomatoes slightly, then add a cup of vegetable broth (or any other broth you have) and sausages, then bring to a boil.  You should start to smell that savory sweetness of the tomatoes wafting through the air.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and let it start to simmer uncovered.  Stir the sauce occasionally so that the tomatoes can start to break down and begin to become sauce like.  After about 1/2 hour, you have something that resembles this:

Sauce

Now, its still not quite ready but if you are in a hurry, I wouldn’t complain if I were served this sauce.  Just add the fresh tomatoes and let them get hot, then you can serve this over any pasta.

I, on the other hand, want to see what happens as the sauce continues to reduce down.  Remember, you don’t want to let it reduce any longer than it takes to get to the texture you like.  An hour is usually a good checking point.

I let my sauce simmer for over an hour, skimming the skins off the top while I was waiting, until my sauce could stick to the back of my spoon.   Grabbed the fresh tomatoes that were put aside and threw them in letting them simmer some until the fresh tomatoes were hot.  Oh my, oh my.  The taste was so good.  The caramelized vegetables really added that extra layer of savoriness to a sauce that was already well balanced, with just the right touch of heat from the red pepper flakes.  The freshness from the tomatoes added the right amount of acidity right at the end of the taste.  Just fabulous.

Well, in my humble opinion anyway.

Try this sauce yourself and let me know how it turned out in the comments.

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