I’m what you’d call a tomato purist. Yep, you know the type: picking tomatoes off salads three quarters of the year, throwing expletives when restaurants dare use mealy, tomatoes in the summer, then eating my weight in caprese salads and tomato tarts and roasted tomatoes and BLTs (heavy on the Ts) all August long.
And of course, there’s tomato sauce — lots of it. If the stuff is made with summer tomatoes, it’s pretty hard for it to be bad. But the best way to highlight summer tomatoes is with three simple ingredients: tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.
I know, not exactly revolutionary. Throw these guys in a pot together haphazardly and you’re likely to get something pretty delicious. But with a little extra care — slivering the garlic, softening it in olive oil, chopping and seeding the tomatoes — it turns into something spectacular, and spectacularly addictive. Here’s how you make it.
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes about a quart
Three pounds mixed tomatoes
1 head garlic
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more to taste
Tomatoes — the most important part, of course. Since you’ll be seeding them (more on that later), a tomato with a low seed-to-flesh ratio is best, such as Roma tomato or most varieties of heirloom tomatoes. A mix of tomatoes, with different shapes and colors, makes an especially nice sauce. Sweeter varieties, like the Cherokee Black pictured below, are especially good with the garlic, but different tomatoes will yield different results, which is part of the fun. Pick what you like.
Now, it’s time to concasse your tomatoes, which is a fancy way to say peel, seed and chop. To do this, cut an X in the bottom of each tomato to make the skin easier to peel off. Next, dip each tomato in simmering water for about 30 seconds — just long enough to loosen the skin.
Then drain and put atop an ice bath, or simply rinse with cold water; you just want them to get cool enough to handle. The skins should slip right off. If you can’t fathom hovering over a hot pan during, well, August, you can also do this by briefly freezing the tomatoes.
To seed the tomatoes, cut it quarters and scoop the seeds out of the tomato crevices into a bowl. (Don’t throw the seeds away yet!) In case you’re wondering “Is seeding really necessary?,” I’ve tried it with the seeds when I was feeling lazy, and the sauce takes on a bitter flavor. Don’t let bad things happen to good sauce.
Then, chop the seeded tomatoes into about medium dice. Violà, tomato concasse!
Scoop the chopped tomatoes into a bowl. Then, remember your seeds? Grab a strainer and pour the pulpy seeds and the juice from the board through — that way you don’t waste a bit of the summer tomato goodness.
Once you’ve prepped the tomatoes, slice the garlic — yes, a whole head of it — into long, thin slices.
Heat a skillet or over medium-low heat, then add the garlic and enough olive oil to cover the slices (about 1/4 cup, but whatever you think.) Cook for about 15 minutes, until the garlic is translucent but not brown.
Finishing the Sauce
Add the tomatoes to the poached garlic.
Season generously with salt. Simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes just start to break down and the garlic is sweet and soft enough to melt in your mouth. Check the seasoning again and salt more if necessary. Then enjoy responsibly — it’s seriously addictive.
Liz Gray is a food person because, for her, a summer without tomatoes would be worse than the apocalypse.
What’s your favorite tomato sauce recipe? Tell us in the comments below.