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Fresh Tomatoes Crowd the Market - Make Sauce!

Make a big batch of fresh tomato pasta sauce with the summer's bounty of tomatoes at the farmers market.

My garden tomatoes have not quite ripened yet. We have great bushy plants erupting from their beds but only one slightly rosy tomato making an appearance. The rest are still green and tiny.

But that's okay because there is a tomato glut at the these days. I've been buying dainty baskets of cherry tomatoes so sweet I just pop them in my mouth instead of bothering to put them in a dish with anything else. But today I went to the market with the mission of buying several pounds of big tomatoes to make a batch of fresh tomato sauce that we can freeze and use later in the year.

Tomato time is my all time favorite time of year (see my post last year about Heirloom tomatoes and a recipe for ). Yummmmm. This year, I'm all about sauce.

Since tomatoes are native to South America, I thought this delicious recipe (see below) from a Peruvian cook for roasted tomato sauce might be fitting. Genetic evidence shows that the precursor to the tomato plant may have actually come from the highlands of Peru. Eventually a species of this early tomato plant was transported to Mexico, where it was domesticated by Mesoamerican civilizations first appearing as a small yellow tomato.

Wild tomato plants are still found from Ecuador to Chile. The Spanish explorer Cortez may have been the first to transport the yellow Aztecan tomato to Europe after his conquest of Tenochtitlan, today's Mexico City, although Christopher Columbus may have taken them back even earlier than that.

And oh what the Europeans have done with that wee tawny tomato. The Italians alone have cultivated so many unique varieties for different types of cooking that there is even a "hanging tomato of Vesuvius." The many varieties of Italian tomatoes are usually known for there place of origin, San Marzano, Borgo Cellano, Costoluto Genovese and are characterized by their intense flavor compared to varieties grown elsewhere. But tomatoes are grown all over the world.

From Gaspacho to Pasta Pomodoro to Pico de Gallo, the tomato remains one of the most vibrant ingredients in world kitchens. The Spanish distributed the tomato throughout their colonies in the Caribbean and took the tomato to the Philippines from where it spread throughout Asia.

There are more than 7,000 varieties of tomato including rare and flavorful crops of Heirloom tomatoes that are popular among home gardeners and small farmers. Roma tomatoes which are oblong shaped are great for making sauce because they are bred with a higher solids content, although you can really use any variety of garden tomato. And the best part about tomatoes is that they are good for you. They are high in Lycopene which is known to prevent some cancers as well as rich in anti-oxidants.

Italian Spaghetti Sauce With Homegrown Tomatoes

Ingredients:

• 7 1/2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, roasted, peeled and chopped 
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup butter
• 2 small onions, diced
• 10 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
• 2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
• 4 anchovy fillets, minced
• 1-1 1/2 cups tomato paste, to taste
• 1 cup liquid: red wine, broth or water
• 4 bay leaves
• 2 Tablespoons dried oregano
• 1 Tablespoon dried basil
• 1 teaspoon fennel seed, chopped
• 1 teaspoon rosemary (fresh or dried), chopped
• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
• 2 Tablespoons sugar, or to taste
• 2 Tablespoons salt, or to taste
• 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
• 2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped (garnish)

Directions:

1. In a large dutch oven-sized pot saute onion, garlic, red pepper and anchovies (if using) in oil and butter, over medium heat, until softened.

2. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, liquid, the herbs and spices, sugar and salt, stirring well to combine.

3. Gently simmer for 2 hours or longer, until tomatoes have broken down and sauce is deep red. Add parsley and simmer for 20 minutes more.

4. Serve over pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Tips

• Choose extra ripe tomatoes. Leave the green ones to ripen on the windowsill.

• If tomatoes are very seedy, remove most of seeds before blending and compensate by adding an extra pound of tomatoes to the pot.

• Don't be afraid to try anchovies. The hairy little fish will melt away without a trace and give your sauce amazing flavor.

• Substitute red wine or beef or chicken broth for the water in the recipe.

• Use fresh or dried basil.

• Since tomatoes vary in sweetness, it’s important to taste the sauce as it simmers. After about an hour, the sauce will reduce and you can begin to sample it. Add more tomato paste for richness of flavor and deeper color, more liquid if it’s too thick, more sugar if it's too sour or bitter. Add more herbs and spices according to preference.

• Simmer sauce for at least two hours or longer if possible. The dish can easily be made a day in advance, as it's even more delicious after flavors marry.

*Recipe adapted from vespawoolf.

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