Stupendous tomato sauce

Tomato sauceStupendous because, really, there is no other word for this stuff. It’ll take you the best part of a day to make, although there’s not much real work involved, just a bit of stirring every half hour or so – if you’re going to be around the house all day, just carry a timer with you set to go “bing” every half hour to remind you to go and stir the sauce. You’ll use up two kilos of those tomatoes you’ve got ripening away in the greenhouse, and you’ll finish with a sauce that tastes like pure condensed summer. It freezes well – I have a few boxes of this sauce in the freezer to be hauled out in the middle of winter, when tomatoes are indistinguishable from potatoes.

The idea here is to drive as much of the moisture as possible out of sweet, summery peppers and tomatoes, encouraging their natural sugars to caramelise. The tomatoes you choose should be the very best you can find. This recipe is fantastic for gardeners with a glut of tomatoes, but you can make it with good tomatoes from the market too. Just make sure you use the sort of tomatoes that you’d be happy to snack on raw; the sort where you suddenly discover you don’t have any left because they were so good you accidentally ate them all without noticing.

This sauce is beyond fabulous on its own, dressing some pasta – if you can find Giovanni Rana fresh pasta at your local supermarket or deli, the basil and spinach fettuccine is a great match, with its intense basil aroma. For plain pasta, throw a few basil leaves and maybe some oregano over when you serve. I also love it as a sauce for chicken breasts that have been butterflied, beaten flat, breaded and fried crisp (you don’t need a recipe for those – just put the butterflied breasts between two pieces of cling film; wallop the hell out them with a rolling pin; then flour, egg and crumb them before frying for five minutes on each side); it’s great mixed with some grilled vegetables or as a sauce for grilled, oily fish too. You can use it as a dip, in sandwiches, as an enriching ingredient for other sauces, as a base for soups – versatile, delicious, wonderful stuff.

To make about 12 servings (you’ll be freezing these in individual portions, and with something that takes so long to cook it seems a waste to make any less) you’ll need:

6 bell peppers (orange, red or yellow)
2kg tomatoes
100g butter
150ml olive oil
2 large onions
1 head garlic
Salt and pepper

Tomatoes and basilBlitz the bell peppers with the onions in the food processor. You’re aiming for a rough, wet puree. Put the resulting glop in your biggest saucepan (preferably something with a heavy base that will disperse the heat evenly – I have a giant le Creuset casserole which is perfect for this sort of thing) with the butter and cook over a medium flame without a lid, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. Eventually, the peppers will start darkening in colour, most of the liquid will have been cooked off, and the whole arrangement will have a jammy texture. It may take more than an hour to get to this stage, depending on the water content of your peppers and the diameter of your pan.

Puree the tomatoes with the peeled garlic. Add them to the jammy contents of the saucepan with the olive oil and stir well to make sure everything is combined. Now go and busy yourself doing whatever it is you do when you’re not cooking, being sure to return to the pan every half hour to stir it, scraping the bottom and moving the sauce around the pan. After a few hours, as the sauce thickens, start returning to the pan every 15 or 20 minutes if you feel it is in danger of sticking when left for half an hour.

Again, timing here varies on your tomatoes and your pan, but around six hours (maybe more) after you first put the tomatoes on the hob, the contents of the pan will have reduced by more than half. The sauce will be fabulously gloppy when stirred, and will be darkening and beginning to give up its oil.  No tomato juice will rush to the surface when you press down on the sauce with a wooden spoon. Taste the sauce, which should look a bit like rusty sun-dried tomato paste, try not to jump too high for joy at the intense, umami flavour, and season.

I freeze this sauce in 250g bags – enough to serve two generously. Your yield should be about six bags, give or take. Unfrozen, the sauce will keep in the fridge for about a week.

14 Replies to “Stupendous tomato sauce”

  1. Hi Mari – nice sauce you’ve got there! The very long simmering is kind of the whole point of this one, though – there’s a dark, caramelised flavour that a fast-cooked tomato sauce can’t achieve.

    While you’re pimping your blog here, I should continue to pimp my own, I suppose – there are plenty of other tomato recipes on Gastronomy Domine, including some more sauces. 🙂

  2. Hey Liz – What’s with ‘Bell Peppers’. Last time I saw these for sale in England they were just plain old Peppers. Kathy is making said sauce today so expecting good things, slow cooked and nicely caramelised of course!

  3. Just wanted to say that I set aside Friday (today) to make this sauce. I have literally just completed it. It was easy and so yummy, it’s all I can do not to eat the whole lot out of the bowl! Thank you, I will definitely make this again. 🙂

  4. Phil – I am being *helpful*. It’s so you don’t accidentally end up with padron, chipotle, jalapeno, shishito, poblano or any other sort of peppers. And Michelle – hurrah! Really glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Hello,

    Can you tell me how long it will last if I were to do everything you said and bottling the sauce the same day to preserve it?

    I would need to cook it with all the windows open to get the scent out so we don’t eat the entire batch on toast with some cheese sprinkled over and toasted.

    We are having a party in August with Spit roast Pork (aka by the butcher as a pig on a pole) and I would rather make my own sauces ahead of time to allow it to mature instead of buying a bottled sauce (I will be cross posting this question to your home made barbecue sauce).

    Thank you (again).

    1. You’ll find it easier (and I think the flavour will be better) just to freeze this one before the wedding rather than bottling, although you can jar it as you would a jam, and it’ll be fine for months. It’ll be really good with a hogroast; I’m beginning to wish I had an invitation!

  6. Will do.
    If you can get up to Aberdeenshire…?

    Your recipes are a good part of the reason Himself’s friends are so keen on us to marry.

    1. Now, I think that is probably the best comment I’ve had on this blog in six years! I feel like a culinary fairy of romance – and it’s a very good feeling! ( And congratulations, of course!)

  7. Well you are and I thank you,

    Your recipes, impressed the In Laws (especially the pork crackling) and his best friends (Boston baked beans, ham in coke, Baba chin, actually most of your Malaysian dishes and belly pork). They are convinced that I am trying to turn them into dumplings. Not their words.

    So far I plan on making and bringing along your apple sauce, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, ginger beer and the Provençale roast lamb with some sort of beans, chicken liver pate and maybe sticky chicken pieces in coke. I love cooking and the thought of people there eating stuff I have made makes me really happy.

    You’ve also helped my workmate charm her beloved when he was in a less than fantastic mood (too many vegetables roasted in honey and mustard for months on end).

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