Fresh tomato sauce is the base of much of our cooking. In the summertime, when we harvest tomatoes from our garden, we hire a woman here in the countryside who makes fresh tomato sauce from them and bottles it for us. She takes half the bottles as payment, and we are left with a larder full of sauce, to use throughout the year. When we see so many bottles lined up, it is impossible to believe that we could ever run out—but we always do. And then we make fresh tomato sauce dish by dish, as we need it. We use good canned Italian tomatoes, since by the time we run out, tomatoes are out of season. Making fresh tomato sauce is a simple process, something that comes so naturally to us, we could do it in our sleep. Specialty stores in America have recently begun importing bottled fresh tomato sauce from Italy. You’ll usually find it in tall bottles, like our water bottles. It is different from supermarket pasta sauces, which are cooked longer and are therefore thicker, and have added seasoning.
Yield: Makes about 2 quarts
5 pounds fresh tomatoes, cored and chopped (or four 28-ounce cans peeled whole Italian tomatoes, drained in a colander and broken up with your hands)
1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped (about ½ cup), plus 6 whole basil leaves
4 cups water
½ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar (or more to taste)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine the tomatoes, onions, and basil together with the water in a large pot. Season with salt and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often.
2. Pass the tomato sauce through a food mill. Return the sauce to the pot you cooked it in. Add the olive oil, whole basil leaves, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.
We add dried oregano, not fresh, to our tomato sauce.