At this time of year, our plants are bursting with the ripening bulk of our tomato crop. In September I am harvesting at least twice a week, and our food is filled with their delicious flavours. This is a time of obvious abundance, and yet it is tinged with the knowledge of the darker, barer months to come.
Because of this, I am always determined to preserve as much of the crop as possible to enjoy later in the year, and certainly not to let a single fruit go to waste! In the past, this meant making batches of soup and sauce for the freezer, but in the last 2 years, I have started preserving in jars. This frees up freezer space for other items, and is perfect for storing pasta sauce well into the winter months.
I have also been working on my recipe, adapting and adjusting the sauce to reach optimum flavour. This version is my new favourite, and is the one I have committed on paper to my recipe tin. I am also including it here to share with you. Fresh tomatoes are of course the star ingredient, but the addition of onions, herbs and garlic add depth. Roasting intensifies the flavour of the tomatoes and onions, and my secret ingredient, a dash of balsamic adds that hint of sweetness.
This sauce is delicious on its own, but it also makes a great base for bolognese, ragù and even chilli con carne. In short, this is the store cupboard staple you didn’t know you needed!
A NOTE ON JARRING SAUCES
Storing sauce in jars is a fantastic preservation method, if done correctly. Always use sterilised jars, and if you’re using a jam funnel to fill them, sterilise that too. There are lots of easy ways to sterilise equipment online, just bear in mind that rubber seals cannot go into dishwashers or ovens!
I tend to wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water, then dry in a preheated oven at 110C. This also means that the jars are hot when you add the sauce, and more likely to create that important vacuum seal! But chose a method that works for you.
Secondly, I tend to use jars with lids that have a safety button. This gives an easy way to check whether a vacuum has formed inside your jar – protecting the contents from going off. If a vacuum does not form (and the button still pops up and down when pressed), keep it in the fridge and use within 2 weeks.
And remember – you can always freeze this recipe if you’re not sure!
TOMATO SAUCE RECIPE
750g/1lb 10oz fresh tomatoes
2.5tbsp olive oil
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2tbsp tomato puree
1tbsp green pesto
2tsp mixed dried herbs
1tsp dried oregano
1/2tsp cayenne chilli powder (optional)
Preheat the oven to 170C fan.
Wash and chop the tomatoes, peel and cut the onion into wedges. Add to a roasting tray or non stick casserole pan, add the oil and balsamic vinegar and mix well to coat.
Season with black pepper and roast for 20 minutes. Check to make sure any edges don’t catch – spritz with spray oil if needed.
Meanwhile bash up 5 cloves garlic with a few coarse salt crystals. The salt will help to draw out the moisture and create a juicy paste. Set aside.
After the 20 minutes, remove the roasted veg from the oven. Blend until smooth – you could use a blender, but I find a stick blender and jug combination works well. Just be careful to keep the blender under the surface – no-one wants an orange kitchen!
Once smooth, add to a large saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Mix in and add a lid.
Bring to the boil, then turn down to a low simmer, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
You should now have a lovely thick sauce. Taste and season it to your liking, then pour into sterilised jars or freezer safe containers. If jarring, add lids immediately to give the best chance of sealing. If freezing, allow to cool completely before freezing.
If you’re storing this sauce for any length of time, always remember to label it with contents and date, to help you keep track of your food supplies. And that’s it!