Don't tell my Nonna...the secret family tomato sauce
Sssshhh...this is our little secret. Please don't tell my Nan that I'm about to tell you the recipe of her fabulous 'pomarola', the best tomato sauce you'll ever taste. It's just too good to keep it in the family!
Summer is synonymous of ripe tomatoes and basil. How can we treasure all that juiciness and give some sunshine to those cold days of winter? Jar and freeze them for a creamy lasagna or ragout pasta on a rainy and cold Sunday or simply use them as a base for a pizza while you watch Game of Thrones.
My nan and mom have always bought fresh summer produce, prepared it and frozen it as part of their winter food stash (winter is coming! Just to stay in GoT's theme). My grandparents would make jams, tomato sauce, liquors and pickled onions to store in their 100 + year-old cellar.
This tomato sauce - pomarola for Tuscans - is the simplest recipe of all and, to be perfectly honest, the best. I'm not biased, I promise. My ex-boss in UK has been the only other person outside the family who knows how to make it and, oh boy, he used to tell me he'd make this recipe every Saturday with his son. When I left the company, he was just too sad I was leaving, because he wanted to snatch some more recipes from my grandma's repertoire.
The key is very ripe and possibly, local tomatoes. Farmer's markets are a good place to go to, because it's guarantee of good quality and if you wait half an hour before the closure you can get some pretty good deals. The juicier, the better. The San Marzano or Roma varieties are the preferable ones, but any would do. Also, patience is an important factor if you want your pomarola to be naturally sweet.
Unlike nonna, I blend all the ingredients, rather than straining them with a strainer. The result is a more granular sauce, but the difference is very little. Her sauce is silkier, because she gets rid of the tomatoes' skin and the fibrous parts of the celery and carrots. It's up to you how you like your pomarola. I'll show you the quicker and less messy way of doing it.
I suggest making the basic recipe, which can be changed in any sauce you like: add olives, anchovies and capers for pasta, or use it on top of your favorite meat with some fresh mozzarella, or even for a homemade pizza. Whatever way you use this pomarola, it'll make such a big difference in your dishes. I promise it won't let you down.
6 lb. (3kg) of ripe tomatoes
2 medium-sized carrots (or 3 small)
1 celery stick
1 medium white onion
One big handful of fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil
One pinch of sugar
Wash and prepare the tomatoes. Remove the hard part on the top and cut them very roughly. Throw them into a large pot.
Clean, cut and roughly chop celery, carrots and onion. Add them also to the pot on top of the tomatoes.
Put a lid on and let it cook at high temperature until it all bubbles away. Then, lower the flame and let it simmer for around two hours or until the liquid has reduced by half. It's important that you don't add any extra liquid in the process. If you see that the liquid evaporates too quickly, reduce the flame even further. You want the sauce to be cooked gently and slowly to unlock all the natural sweetness of your veggies.
Remove from the stove, let it cool for a while and blend everything.
Place the sauce back into the pan. Take half of the basil leaves and break them with your hands (no metal knife, because it kills the flavor) into the pomarola. Simmer for another two hours until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the remaining basil and pour a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil. At this point, you can season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. The last one is optional and it's up to the natural sweetness of your tomatoes.
Freeze in different size containers, so that you have your sauce ready for a dinner with friends or for a quick 'solo' pasta.