It’s summertime tomato wonderfulness now but think ahead and can the delicious fruits, because once winter hits your only options are mealy flavorless supermarket tomatoes. I can’t deal.
I am stoked at this weekly deal offered at the Brooklyn Kitchen through October. For $35 you get a 20lb box of canning tomatoes that come from Lancaster, PA or the Fingerlakes region of NY. And they are organic. Order by Tuesday at 5pm for pick-up that Friday.
I am not going to can my tomatoes. Instead, I am going to make big batches of red sauce and freeze it in small containers so we can have fresh pasta all winter. Who am I kidding? It will not last all winter! We will be lucky if it gets to the freezer.
When I was lucky enough to attend the Paulie Gee Christmas party and have dinner with the man himself, I was able to use the skills I learned in my interviewing class to find out how he made his delicious red pasta sauce. (note: this is not the sauce he uses on his pizza.)
“Oh man! This is so good. How do you make this?”
“Are these San Marzano tomatoes?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Paulie, Come on. I need to know what kind of tomatoes these are.”
“It’s a secret.”
“You have to tell me!”
(My interview method is called: The Whiny Interrogation.)
As I rolled my eyes and grumbled and complained, he explained the simple recipe. It was the easiest sauce I’ve ever made, and maybe one of the most delicious in its simplicity.
The key here is vidalia onions, the ones that look squashed. They are so sweet and mild you can eat them raw. (Paulie can’t.)
Sautee one chopped vidalia onion with a few cloves of garlic (Paulie doesn’t use garlic, I did.) in olive oil. (I added red chili flakes, too.) Transfer to a bowl. Over that add a generous amount of fresh basil leaves, which steam from the heat and release a lot of flavor. Then add your tomatoes – I used 2 cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes, which I find to be superior to other canned tomatoes found in the grocery store. I used a food mill to crush them and remove the seeds.
Leave the bowl covered on the counter overnight, and depending on whether you want the onion and basil in there, you can put it all through the food mill again before you make your pasta.
What I love about making this sauce is all the other dishes besides pasta I can make with it.
One of the most simple dishes I make is cauliflower stewed in tomato sauce. In a pot, saute garlic and olive oil and red pepper flakes. Add enough sauce to cover the bottom of the pot, then add pieces of cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper. Add some tomato sauce over the cauliflower and some water to the bottom of the pot. Cover and let it steam for 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. At the end, add some grated Parmesan cheese. This can be eaten on its own or, if cooked down a lot, can be used atop pasta.
Another great way to use the sauce is to stew greens with beans. I love white beans with escarole and chick peas with spinach. I like to make this even more oniony, so I saute more onions with garlic and, of course, red pepper flakes. Then I add a can of beans. Once those cook down for a few minutes add your green. Season with salt and pepper. This is one of my accidentally vegan dishes. After I cook it, I say, “and it’s vegan, too!” I’m not vegan, but I have friends who are.
The next day I love to poach an egg in tomato sauce. This is so easy. In a small pot, pour in some sauce and let it heat up a bit. Crack an egg in, season the yolk with salt and pepper and cover. Lower the heat and after 5 minutes you have a warm delicious saucy egg that is great topped with cheese and served with Italian bread. You can poke it to see how runny or firm it is.
And if you do happen to use the food mill to remove the tomato seeds and the onions bits, you can use that to top pizza or bruschetta! There are five ways to use the sauce right there!