I USED TO SPEND RAINY DAYS in harvest season writing, and reading, and streaming a bounty of BBC and other British television series such as “Broadchurch” and “Silk”-oh, what would I do without public TV from both sides of the Atlantic? All the while I’d set consecutive small batches of tomato sauce to bubbling on the stove…destined for the freezer. Even if it doesn’t rain much, or in years when my TV viewing leans to the Australian, the cooking process is the same. Keeping things really simple, my basic freezer red sauce goes like this:
fast red sauce for the freezer
- olive oil for sautéing
- 1 large head of garlic, whole cloves peeled
- 3 chopped quarts of plum tomatoes
- fresh basil, chiffonaded (as much or little as you like)
- generous handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- (salt and pepper to taste, if desired)
Sauté all the peeled whole cloves from one head of garlic slowly in olive oil till they are really soft and almost caramelized. I leave the cover on the pan, and use low heat so they don’t get crispy (later, the cloves will sort of melt into the sauce).
To the soft garlic, add a mixing bowl full of chopped whole paste tomatoes (above). By mixing bowl I mean 8-inch diameter, holding about 3 liquid quarts.
Yes, I leave on the skins, and leave in the seeds, terrible person that I am! Hey, more fiber and vitamins for me, right? (If you really hated the skins, you could use a food mill to strain them out of the cooked mixture, but I love chunky sauce.)
I do remove any dings or occasionally the cores if they are really substantial – just that greenish-brown spot where the stem attached, I mean, not the innards. But the small, very reliable and productive paste tomato I grow for sauce, the hybrid called ‘Juliet’ (below) or the newer variety ‘Verona,’ really don’t have much core to fuss over. Note: even cherry tomatoes make their own distinctive sauce, so if you have a late-season glut of them, why not?
Cover, and after things start to soften slightly, add chopped basil to taste. Cover again, and let the ingredients really get thoroughly soft-then remove the cover to let steam escape and the sauce thicken.
I chop some of my favorite parsley, the Italian-style giant flat-leaf type, and add it in after I remove the sauce from the heat, so the leaves just wilt but stay bright green.
The whole process for each small batch might take half an hour, prep to finish. When the sauce is cool, I ladle it into straight-sided canning jars, leaving some headspace for expansion, and freeze. (I say straight-sided because jars with “shoulders” can crack more easily when liquidy ingredients push up while freezing to solid. Wide-mouth straight-sided are best of all.)
One more tip: Vary the size of jars you stash with sauce. Sometimes you just need enough for one serving, like a half-pint jelly jar, or even half that, perhaps to use as the “liquid” in some sautéed vegetables or to enrich another sauce. Other times, company’s coming: Make sure there are some quarts on hand.
or: try herbed-roasted tomatoes to freeze
TIP: I FREEZE WHOLE TOMATOES in freezer bags, to use instead of canned whole tomatoes in soups and stews and sauces all year. And lately I also follow the inspiration of my friend Alana Chernila, a cookbook author and neighbor, and freeze herbed roasted tomatoes, too. As a future sauce or soup, they are unrivaled. Here’s the “recipe.”
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