Tomato Sauce from Scratch: Who Needs Therapy?

Sometimes, days don’t go your way.

Sometimes, you wake up to realize that you forgot to put your breakfast yogurt in your boyfriend’s fridge and left it out overnight. And that your work shirt is at home. And you’re 15 minutes late. And why are there 5 other people in this elevator all going to different floors, it’s 9:15 why can’t you people show up on time?!

Sometimes, you then find out that you have to delay getting your cast off (bringing your total cast-wearing time up to 10 weeks) because the firm you work for wants to send you down to a work training. One day only, no room for rescheduling. 10 hours of travel for a 1.5 hour training.

This is all okay…No meltdowns yet.

Until you lose your house key on your lunchtime jog. Then it’s time for a meltdown.

I think everyone’s entitled to a meltdown every so often. Even Joy the Baker says so. For me, that day was yesterday.

Here’s another thing that went wrong and was much more time-consuming than originally thought: tomato sauce from scratch.

But for some reason, it worked. It was therapeutic, even.

It took forever. Seeds got through. It wasn’t perfect…But dammit, it was rustic. And I made it myself! I had something to show for my frustration. Maybe it’s the Italian in me.

At least I made a dent in my parents’ ever-growing tomato bounty:

(This was how many they had left after I used all of the above tomatoes to make tomato sauce)

Put your tomatoes to use. Make some tomato sauce. Peel the tomatoes, gut them and squeeze out the seeds. Who needs therapy? I’ve got food.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
makes ~2 heaping cups (2-3 servings)

10 small/medium vine ripe tomatoes
1/2 small onion, diced very finely
1/2 green bell pepper, also diced finely
1 clove garlic, diced
olive oil

Prepare water to boil, and fill a bowl with ice and cold water. Cut an X in the bottom of each tomato, then plunge into boiling water. Remove after 1 minute with a slotted spoon and transfer to ice bath. If it doesn’t seem like the skin is loose yet, keep ’em in for a minute longer.

Once tomatoes are cooled, the skin should slide off very easily. Cut tomatoes lengthwise and squeeze out all of the seeds over a strainer, saving any juices that gather in a bowl beneath. This may take a while. Now is where you decide if you want a chunky or thin sauce. I like a little bit of both, so I put about 6-7 of the seeded tomatoes in a food processor and pulsed a few times. For the rest of the tomatoes, I chopped them up coarsely.

Heat olive oil in a pot and saute onions, garlic and peppers until tender, only a couple minutes. Then, add in pureed and crushed tomatoes. Add herbs and simmer on medium-low for 30 minutes. Take peeks every 5 to 10 minutes to stir, season with salt and pepper, and to see if the sauce is reducing and thickening. If it is, add in the reserved juices from earlier.

When sauce has reached desired consistency, remove from heat and serve!

Notes: If you’re using a food processor to puree everything, might as well chop your onion and pepper in there too (separately)! Next, my sauce started out really watery and I didn’t think I’d have to add in any juices — as it thickened, I actually ended up adding almost all of the juice! Finally, feel free to add sausage, turkey, or lean ground beef. Just add it to the pot when you saute the onions and peppers!

T-Man was supposed to eat stir-fry that night, but I think he was pleased with his alternative:

Anyone else find cooking therapeutic?


For meals that were not at all stressful to cook, check out my next entry with photos of some gourmet French meals I was lucky to be treated to when I studied abroad!

72 thoughts on “Tomato Sauce from Scratch: Who Needs Therapy?

  1. Pingback: Tomato Sauce from Scratch: Who Needs Therapy? « netish

  2. I always make my tomato sauce from.scratch. I actually prep my tomatoes( skin, core and seed them) and then I put them in in freezer ziploc gallon bags, squeeze the air out and pop.them in the freezer. When I plan on making anything requiring tomatoes I just grab a bag and away I go. No need to defrost if you are using a big stew pot, just remove from bag and drop in the pot. You may have to put the bag under warm water first to loosen the tomatoes from the bag, but that is it.

    Also I always just put the juices from the seeds in at the beginning, ipod gonna use it anyway, and if it is too watery, just cook the sauce down a bit more.

    Once I make my sauce I also divide it up into two/four serving freezer bags and freeze it too. Ready and waiting for pasta night.

    In the mood for pizza? Just cook the sauce down more so it is thick and not runny and use for pizza sauce.

  3. Mmm, I love homemade tomato sauce! My family’s not into it much though, they complain that it takes too much time.

    Your post reminded me of a Twitter friend who has just made a year’s worth of tomato sauce with his family. They had some bushels with 56 lb of tomatoes each, yielding 20 jars per bushel. It looked a bit complicated because they used big crushers and all, but it was amazing. I don’t think I can manage to make sauce in bulk though, so I’ll stick to your recipe πŸ˜€

  4. Mmmmm… great pictures! All cooking and baking is therapeutic, in fact, anything creative is, because we have something to show for it. Peeling tomatoes time consuming? Naaah, just a bit of a pest. πŸ˜‰

  5. For years, I have only had tomato sauce I’ve made from scratch with fresh tomatoes. Once you taste how flavorful this sauce can be is it’s hard to go back. For a decadently sweet tomato sauce use half whatever small/medium vine tomatoes you have, and half cherry tomatoes (which you don’t need to peel!).

    • I pretty much made it up myself- my Italian mother always made sauce when I was growing up (usually from canned tomatoes) so besides the peeling and de-seeding, I based it on what we usually put in at home πŸ™‚

  6. Great way to end a bad day. I believe cooking is very therapeutic–especially with a glass of wine (or two). Your sauce looks delicious!

  7. This looks amazing and is the same way my mom used to make hers. She would make an over abundance though and can the rest so we’d have it in the winter. Thank you for the beautiful pictures to go along with your post. Maybe, one day, when my child gets older, I’ll be able to make my own again.

  8. It’s funny to read a post about how great it is to make tomato sauce from scratch because that seems perfectly normal to me. I’ve never eaten tomato sauce that was not home made (well, probably I have, at my university’s cafeteria…anyway…) Your sauce does look delicious though!

  9. This looks delicious! After a year of not eating pasta, I’ve recently begun eating rice pasta and I absolutely love it. I was actually looking for something else to try as a sauce. I’ve done the whole canned tomato sauce + ground beef thing and it’s good, but I like this recipe because it seems more authentic. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I agree with you 100%– cooking can be very therapeutic! On a day when things really suck and you feel like alternating between crying and smashing pottery, flatten some chicken breasts between cling wrap with a hammer. Then season and cook up in a skillet with some olive oil… OR… wrap them around some cheese and herbs and bake in the oven. Mmmmm… A little aggression, a little seasoning and BAM! The day is better.

  11. Yes, I do! πŸ˜€ I’ve actually been thinking about making tomato sauce to can, but it looks like a lot of work…I’m not sure if I need that much therapy right now. πŸ˜›

  12. isn’t oregano and basil the secret ingredients for that authentic Italian flavor.
    Really when you don’t how to cook (like me) those are the 2 secret weapons LOL
    Thanks for sharing and congrats on the FP! πŸ™‚

  13. I enjoyed your blog on homemade tomato sauce. Tomatoes are one thing we have in abundance this year in our garden, the other is chile peppers (last year both were a total bust, but we got lots of broccoli, green beans, peas and rhubarb last year… none of those did well this year… go figure.) Anyway, I had a similar idea preserve our bountiful tomato crop… making (and canning) my own ketchup from scratch.

  14. Oh, yum! I miss the Midwest. All those hot Summer days used to produce copious amounts of tomatoes all season long. Here in the Pacific NW now, their got growing season is very short… Still not too many tomatoes yet! But when there are, I’ll definitely tackle this recipe (with maybe a few tweeks of my own ;))

  15. Green Pepper? Not in my tomato sauce. No sugar? I always use a little to temper the acidity in the tomatoes. You can shave in a little carrot in addition/instead if your tomatoes aren’t really sweet. Unless your tomatoes are really, really good, do yourself a favor and try San Marzano (the region in Italy, not a brand) canned whole tomatoes. They taste better than store-bought tomatoes and can be found all year long. For something different, use Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted tomatoes. Bottled or canned sauce is worthless.

  16. It looks delicious! How do you fancy coming to England and dropping off a taster for me? πŸ˜€ If that doesn’t work for you I shall have to venture into this myself. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

  17. I chuckled to myself when saw this post, as my husband had just left a few minutes ago to pick some tomatoes! πŸ˜€
    The technique with the boiling & ice water, is that what is called ‘blanching’, or is that something different?
    Peace, and thanks for sharing your recipe!!! ~ Beth

  18. nothing like making your own, we try to make enough each fall to get us through winter months along with our soups and salsa’s, they make nice hearty reminders of what is ahead during a cold snowy day

  19. I make a lot of homemade items, and cooking is my therapy. Looking forward to trying your recipe with all the tomatoes that are getting ready to ripen in my yard:-)

  20. Looks great! Home-made food is so nutritious, and easy to make too. This seems a bit fiddly, but the finished product looks great! I have written an article on my blog about the benefits of home made food, so stop by and read it if you want! Great post!

  21. In some varieties the juice inside increases bitterness and it’s best not to add to the sauce. If you can find fresh San Marzano tomatoes they’re really amazing.

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  25. Cooking is DEFINITELY therapeutic! I was ridiculously sick over the weekend, so I made 6 or 7 dishes to try and forget my woes. It helped that my coworkers’ gardens went crazy this week; they piled SOOO many tomatoes on me. I’ve found heirloom tomatoes make a more complex-tasting sauce than romas, but in the end, if they’re fresh, they’re usually good. BTW, dmill96 is right, San Marzanos are great, but MUCH better when they’re from Naples. (I import my flour from Naples, too. Doesn’t have NEARLY as much gluten.)

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