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Can You Help Me Out? I Need Two Recipes…

August 11, 2010 · 89 comments

in Commentary, Recipes

Greetings readers!

Today, I am asking for some help.  I have a million tomatoes ripening in my garden and I was wondering if anyone had a tried-and-true homemade salsa or spaghetti sauce recipe.  I have tried making both from scratch and I have not found perfection yet.

Can anyone help me?

Thank you!

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{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy L August 11, 2010 at 10:22 am

I haven’t had luck with sauce, but I love my salsa.

The trick to the salsa is to chop the tomatoes fine or lightly food process them and then stick them into a colander to drain (otherwise it’s way too watery).

For a small batch, other ingredients to taste:
-red onion
-fresh cilantro
-a small jalapeno or chili (mild, med or hot depending on preference)
-about a spoon or two of tomato paste adds color and some flavor..don’t add too much or you’ll lose the fresh flavor of the garden tomatoes
-onion or garlic powder (smidge)

I don’t have an exact recipe because my quantities vary depending on the hotness of the chilis and the ripeness of the tomatoes, but the key is to drain your tomatoes + add some paste…the rest of the recipe you tailor to suit your personal palette. I’ve added chipotle peppers, ancho chili powder..lots of variations.


Kris August 11, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Sandy, I will have to try your recipe. I never though of using tomato paste, that is an interesting idea. Last time I made salsa, it was a little thin so I will give that a go! Thank you!!


Sandy L August 12, 2010 at 7:18 am

oops forgot the lime juice..subu’s recipe reminded me of it.


Money Reasons August 11, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I can’t help with the recipe, but I can tell you what I’m nuts about, but don’t know how to make…

(Stewed Tomatoes!

Yes, it don’t sounds that appealing, and they looks like soggy red socks in a wet pile, but they taste fantastic! Or it could be just me 🙂


Kris August 11, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Money Reasons – do you eat the stewed tomatoes on rice or something, or just plain??


Money Reasons August 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm

When I had them in Colonial Williamsburg, they were great just by themselves. Actually, it kind of surprised me, because I didn’t like tomatoes at the time and decided to try it on a whim. I ended up liking it so much I went back for seconds!


Budgeting in the Fun Stuff August 11, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I don’t know sauce or salsa recipes, but I love slices of ripe tomatoes on top of homemade pizzas.

I also love stuffed tomatoes – scoop out some of the center to use for your sauce when you get a recipe, then stuff it as you like and bake. YUM. We stuff them with 2-3 types of cheeses, mushrooms (if hubby isn’t having any), croutons for a breading, diced onions, diced celery, and salt and pepper.


Kris August 11, 2010 at 8:28 pm

BFS – Stuffed tomatoes do sound good. I hate stuffed cabbage, but cabbage scares me. Stuffed tomatoes would probably be quite tasty!


Rebecca August 11, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Well…. first of all I am SOOO jealous. My tomatoes got in late and they are all still just little green things. I’m hoping for a long Indian summer!

OK, so there are a few tricks to making marinara from fresh tomatoes.

The first thing is that you need to remove the skins. To do this you cut lightly through the skin (I usually make an X) and then dunk them in boiling water for a minute or two. Then fish them out with a slotted spoon and the skins should pretty much just slide off.

Secondly, fresh tomatoes contain A LOT of water, so you really need to cook them down before they will make good sauce. I generally do this in the fall and then freeze the stewed tomatoes to use them throughout the year. So, after you have the skins off, cut them into cubes of about an inch or so and toss them (with all of the juice) into a large, heavy bottomed pot. You need to simmer them uncovered on low heat for about 3-4 hours (at least… more is better) in order to remove enough of the liquid and let it cook down enough to get a good flavor and a nice stewed consistancy. You need to stir periodically or else they will stick to the bottom.

So, at that point I usually put them into mason jars with about 2 inches of air at the top. I put them upright in the freezer with the lids ajar. Then once they’re frozen solid, I screw the lids on tightly and move them down into the deep freeze.

SOOOOOOO once you’ve got stewed tomatoes, then you’re ready to make them into sauce! Here’s my favorite recipe for simple marinara, straight from my Italian grandmother!

Super Simple Marinara
1 onion finely chopped
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2 Tablespoons dried basil (or fresh if you’ve got it)
1 Tablespoon dried oregano (or fresh if you’ve got it)
2-3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 – 26 ounce jars of stewed tomatoes

Sauté onion with salt in olive oil on medium heat until clear (about 10 minutes). Add garlic and spices and sauté another 5 minutes. Since flavors are generally carried by the oil/fat, you really want to add the spices at this point so that the flavors can absorb nicely into the olive oil. Add vinegar and allow the liquid to boil off (about 5 minutes). Add tomatoes and sugar and allow to come to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for an hour or two. Be sure to stir it so it doesn’t stick.

The sauce will be a little watery at first, so you may need to vary the cooking time depending on how thick you want it. I usually use this sauce to make lasagna, and I use the “no cook” noodles which absorb a great deal of liquid, so watery sauce works out just fine. But if you want less watery sauce, you can try any combination of the following. Put half of the tomatoes into the blender or food processor before you add it to the sauce. This will puree the chunks and add thickness to the sauce. You can also cook it longer, or try adding a little bit of flour or potato starch to thicken it. I’d be REALLY careful with adding thickeners though, because you can end up with something that looks more like tomato gravy instead of sauce and it just won’t taste right.

You can also add some grated Parmesan or Romano cheese if it tastes too tangy. Add it near the end and just stir it in to let it melt and mix thoroughly.

BTW – here’s my veggie lasagna recipe: http://open.salon.com/blog/the_almighty_beckster/2010/05/16/meatless_monday_yummy_veggie-tofu_lasagna

Good luck!


Kris August 11, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Rebecca, that sauce sounds wonderful. I need to start thinking about growing my own herbs, but I will buy them for when I give this a try. Thank you so much for taking the time to write all of that out!!


Suba @ Wealth Informatics August 11, 2010 at 6:26 pm

I have a very simple recipe from somewhere, so far this has worked well for me (I like chunky salsa).

tomatoes, chopped (I usually just crush them in my stone mortal/pestle if I want chucky one, or use my food processor to chop it finer)
finely diced onion
serrano chiles, finely chopped
chopped fresh cilantro
lime juice

put everything, mix and leave it for at least 1-2 hrs before eating. I have also added chopped mangos & cucumber sometimes if I am going to eat it right away. If I want a “smoked”/roasted salsa, I roast the tomato in the broiler and peel the dark skin (the inside will still be firm), remove the seeds and use the rest. Also instead of serrano, I use smoked chipotle for this version.

18 ripe roma tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Burgundy wine
1 bay leaf
2 stalks celery
2 tablespoons tomato paste
fresh oregano & thyeme
Crushed pepper

1.Blanch tomatoes, remove peel and squeeze out seeds.
2.Chop tomatoes and puree in blender or food processor.
3.In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, cook onion, bell pepper, carrot and garlic in oil and butter until onion starts to soften, about 15 minutes. Pour in pureed tomatoes. Stir in tomato, basil, Italian seasoning and wine. Place bay leaf and whole celery stalks in pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 2 hours. Discard celery and bay leaf. Stir in tomato paste and put sauce in food processor. Put back in pot and simmer an additional 2 hours.

This takes a looooong time though. I do it just once a year and freeze/can for the rest of the year.

I don’t know if either one of them is authentic (both if them I took from some website and tweaked a little to my taste over the years), just something we like. On the other hand if you want Indian chutneys & sauces, then we can talk about authenticity 😛


Kris August 11, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Suba – both those recipes sound good. I know that both salsa and spaghetti sauce can vary so much by individual taste. I never thought to use celery as ‘flavoring’ and then discard it, that is very interesting. Can’t wait to try. Thanks for writing all of this up!!


Suba @ Wealth Informatics August 11, 2010 at 6:30 pm

That crushed pepper would be red pepper flakes (Sorry!) Also I have tried pureeing the carrot/bell pepper, skipping them… all worked fine.


Sandy L August 13, 2010 at 11:37 am

I’ve snuck in a 1/2 cup of pureed carrots into my tomato sauce before without my kids noticing. I definitely use onion and bell pepper too..all pureed so my kids don’t stick their nose up at “eating vegetables”


andrew October 11, 2010 at 6:28 am

This might come a little late, unless you get an end-of-season crop.

This recipe has no name, it’s just a fresh tomato sauce with whatever cheese you happen to have in the fridge or canned from preps.

Tomatoes from the garden, about 10 or 20, enough to fill the blender. You may wish to parboil and remove the skins if you like, I just put them in.
Puree the tomatoes until, well, pureed.
Heat some minced garlic in olive oil in a mid size sauce pot. When garlic colors, add the tomato puree.
Cook on high heat for a bit to raise the temperature, then simmer on low for about an hour, until the sauce is reduced by half. About half way through add either half a chicket stock cube, or about a cup of chicken stock. Add Salt and pepper.
Start cooking the pasta (about 1 lb) in salted water.
Mince some fresh basil leaves, about 10 big leaves or so. Add to sauce. Have another 3 or 4 whole leaves for garnish. If you have some fresh minced parsley, that’s good too.
Dice up some firm cheese, asiago or pecorino or mozzarella sticks, or monterey jack. Add to sauce. A couple of minutes will be enough to soften but not melt the cheese cubes.
Drain pasta, back in the pot, add the sauce, garnish and Bob’s your Uncle.

For variation, try adding either sour cream or whipping cream to the sauce to lighten it up.


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