Now is the time for fresh, ripe tomatoes around here, which means that now is also the time for fresh tomato sauce (thanks to Lisa for reminding me - I had these photos all set, and then totally forgot to post about it). At our farm we get a variety of tomatoes; the big heirlooms they pick for us, but the plum tomatoes and the cherries we get to pick ourselves. One of my favorite smells in the world is that musky, tomato-on-the-vine-in-the-sun smell, so the pick-your-own part is kind of like free therapy.
This sauce, from The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, takes advantage of a mix of tomatoes for a complex blend of sweet and bright flavors. It's a good sauce for lasagne or filled pasta recipes, and also for adding to other sauces and soups to liven them up; it's also great on pasta if you like your sauce non-chunky. I tend to like the chunks, but this recipe manages to distill the great taste of late-summer tomatoes, and it freezes well, too. The recipe as written doesn't make a ton of sauce; I tend to double or even triple it whenever I make it. If you're doing the same, remember to cook everything longer (and if possible, use a bigger pan) to get the same rich taste.
Big Red Sauce
Serves 6 as a first course, 3 as a main dish, with 3/4 lb. fettucine, spaghetti or tagliatelle
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, minced fine
3-inch branch of fresh rosemary
3 large basil leaves, each torn into several pieces
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs. rich-flavored tomatoes (about 4 medium), cored and chopped, but left unpeeled and unseeded
3/4 lb. (about 1 pt.) cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 tsp sugar
1. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, rosemary, basil, a light sprinkling of salt, and several grinds of plack pepper. Sauté the onions to golden brown, stirring with a wooden spatula. (Note: in her notes, Kasper warns "Don't shrink from taking the onions to a rich golden brown, then cooking down the tomatoes fast until they become really thick".)
2. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often and scraping down the glaze forming on the sides of the pan. Watch for signs of burning. Cook about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the wooden spatula leaves a wide trail when run along the bottom of the skillet. Take the pan off the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.
3. Pass the sauce through a food mill set over a bowl, getting every bit of pulp possible. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
If you don't have a food mill, please use a strainer and a wooden spoon or something, but not a blender or food processor, okay? You'll get nothing like the right consistency if you do it that way.