In Hitting the Sauce¸ Lucy has a tomato sauce (or tomato gravy, if you’re from Jersey) recipe that she received from her father. While you may not have access to purple, Afghan-derived tomatoes, you can re-create her sauce with any good heirloom tomato or even plum tomatoes if they’re perfectly ripe.
(One way, albeit very vague way, to tell if a tomato is perfectly ripe is to hold it in your hand. If it feels heavy for its size, then it’s perfectly ripe).
Of course, if you want a purple-hued sauce, like Lucy’s, you can use Cherokee Purple tomatoes, or a variety that’s considered a “black” tomato: Black Krim, Black Prince, etc.
One final note about making tomato sauce. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how long to let the sauce cook. It kind of depends on how ripe your tomatoes are and what kind of sauce you want. In general, the longer you cook it, the more rich and complex the flavor will be. Shorter-cooking sauces will taste more like fresh tomatoes. Longer cooking makes for thicker, more caramelized sauces and vice verse, shorter cooking makes for thinner ones.
Keep in mind, Lucy’s sauce uses roasted tomatoes. Because you are roasting the tomatoes, first, you will need to have a food mill in order to get rid of the seeds and whatever chunks of skin remain. It seems like an old-fashioned kind of thing, I know. But you can easily get them from Amazon and other places for about $25.00 and if you like to cook, you’ll find plenty of uses for it.
And now, Lucy’s sauce:
- 5 pounds ripe tomatoes
- 5 garlic cloves, depending on personal taste, crushed and chopped (it’s important to crush them before chopping because crushing releases the oils).
- 15 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus another 2 Tbs.
- Juice from one lemon
- 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 ½ cup cooking sherry or dry white wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Wash and de-stem tomatoes. Place in roasting pan, it’s OK if they need to be stacked a little.
- Mix together the garlic, herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar. Drizzle over the tomatoes.
- Roast about 40 to 45 minutes, until it looks like the tomatoes are collapsing.
- Remove pan of tomatoes and set aside.
- In large saucepan, over medium heat, sauté the onions until translucent.
- Smash up the tomatoes, you don’t need to pulverize them, just get them “mushy” and add them to the onions.
- Add in the wine/sherry.
- Bring to a low simmer and cook, stirring frequently for about an hour, or until it reaches your desired thickness (which could be up to another hour).
- Remove from heat and let cook enough to run through the food mill, using a disk with small holes.
This recipe will make about a quart of sauce, but if you use meatier tomatoes, you could get around 2 quarts out of it.