I like to cook with local and seasonal produce as much as possible, but sometimes in the winter it can get a bit tricky. That’s when I find myself reaching for canned tomatoes. Whether you’re putting them up yourself or buying imported tomatoes from the grocery store, these canned summer beauties can enhance winter meals including soups, stews, braises, pizza and of course, pasta.
Those enormous 10# cans (102 ounces) of whole, peeled tomatoes are my favorite. With a little olive oil, butter, onion and garlic, I make a basic tomato sauce in a big batch that I can store in the freezer. This recipe yields about 10 to 12 cups and will last 5 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.
You can use this sauce in any recipe that calls for a tomato sauce or marinara. I even use it to replace plain, canned tomatoes in chili or beef stew. Don’t be surprised by the amount of salt and pepper you use to appropriately season the sauce – it’s a lot of tomatoes.
Simple Tomato Sauce
yields 2 1/2 to 3 quarts
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 medium onions, chopped (about 3 1/2 cups)
8 cloves garlic, chopped
10# can whole peeled tomatoes (102 ounces), or 3-28 cans and 1-15 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes
2 large sprigs basil, optional
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat olive and butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions and 2 very large pinches of salt and sauté until they soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 12 minutes, turning down heat if onions begin to brown. Add garlic and stir until it’s very fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Do not let garlic brown.
Add tomatoes to the pot, using a rubber spatula to scrape the inside of the cans. Season sauce with 2 more large pinches of salt and add basil, if using.
Bring tomatoes to a simmer, then let it cook and slowly bubble over medium-low heat until it slightly thickens, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Use a wooden spoon or kitchen shears to break up the tomatoes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as you see fit. Discard basil sprigs.
I prefer a rustic, chunky or jammy-like sauce, but purée tomato sauce in a blender if you like a smoother consistency.
Allow sauce to cool completely before storing in quart- or pint-sized containers. Simple Tomato Sauce will last 5 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.
See more seasonal recipes from my Spring Crate.