Preserving Summer Produce- Mom’s Spicy Marinara Sauce


Last week, Amy talked about being tired of tomatoes. It’s easy to tire of summer produce this time of year when there is a chill in the air and you start to crave pumpkin, apples, and cinnamon. But there are still plenty of ripe, juicy summer tomatoes around, and they won’t last forever. So take a page from my mom and use those tomatoes to make sauce.

My mom has been making sauce every summer, freezing it, then eating it all winter long. Since she’s been doing this for years, she’s got a pretty good recipe. I think the original was from Southern Living, but she’s fiddled with it over the years to her liking. In the dead of winter, it’s not quite the same as a fresh garden tomato, but it’s pretty close. 

This year she grew roma tomatoes, which are especially good for sauce. My dad also gardens and has lots of beautiful herbs. He gave me a large bag of basil, rosemary, and oregano. Some of the basil and rosemary went into this sauce (actually, I forgot the oregano somehow – oops!).

I paired the herbs with garlic from my CSA and made a large pot of yummy, summery sauce. It does have quite the kick, but you could use less pepper or perhaps even no pepper at all if you don’t do spicy. I doubled the recipe and got enough sauce for about 6 servings. We ate two right away and I put the rest up in two freezer bags for the cold months ahead. If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use 1/2 the amount of dried, but they really make a difference here. At minimum, I suggest fresh basil. 







Spicy Marinara Sauce

1 small onion or 1/2 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tb chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 Tb dried thyme

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (use just a pinch or none at all if you don’t want spicy)

3 cups chopped tomatoes (about 6 medium tomatoes or 8-9 roma)

1/2 Tb brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (you can sub about 1 Tb dried, but the fresh makes a big difference)

2 Tb chopped fresh oregano or 1 Tb dried

1 Tb chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 Tb dried

2 Tb olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1. The tomatoes should be peeled. To do this easily, boil a pot of water on the stove and set a bowl of ice water nearby. Then cut 2 small x’s in the skin of each tomato, one on the top and one on the bottom. Drop the tomatoes, a couple at a time into the boiling water. Wait about 30 seconds (you’ll see the skin start to peel away where you cut the x’s), the use a slotted spoon to scoop up the tomato and place in the the bowl of ice. Repeat with all the tomatoes.

2. Drain the ice water and peel the tomatoes. The skin should slip right off. Then core and roughly chop each one. Big chunks is fine, they will break down when cooking. Set them aside.

3. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat (medium for normal recipe, a bigger pot if doubling). Saute the onion till tender and starting to brown, 4-5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and red pepper. Saute 2 min.

4. Add tomatoes and brown sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 min.

5. Stir in basil, oregano, and rosemary. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook 5 minutes.

6. Remove from heat and let cool about 15 minutes. At this point it is quite chunky, but can be pureed with an immersion blender or in a food processor until it reaches the desired consistency. I gave mine a whirl in the food processor, but kept it on the chunkier side since I like it this way.

7. Serve or freeze for later. To freeze, let the sauce cool for a couple hours, then pour in large freezer bags (I froze about 1 1/4 cups per bag for 2 servings). Lay the bags flat in the freezer till frozen and they’ll take up little room.