It goes without saying, I was thrilled. The positive reaction I received was overwhelming and many asked for the recipe. This was a problem since I’m a “that-looks-about-right” type cook and tend to throw things in a pot, disregarding my measuring cups. However, the food-blogging public has been very kind to me by way of recipe sharing and I set out to write it down.
So, welcome newcomers! Please note, though I post the occasional recipe, this is not a food blog and I tend to swear a lot. Hopefully, you’ll come back.
Roasted Garlic & Basil Pasta Sauce
This is a nice small batch for beginners or a good way to use up the last of your garden tomatoes
Yield: Approximately 8 cups (enough for about 2 quarts or 4 pints)
- 2 large red bell peppers
- Whole head garlic
- Olive oil
- 6lb tomatoes; I prefer to use Roma tomatoes, but use whatever you have on hand. Tomatoes with thick flesh and low juice are ideal.
- 1-2 large onions; diced small/medium
- 3 cloves garlic; minced
- 1 cup red wine; go for something like a robust Chianti and stay away from anything overtly fruity
- 1+ tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup tbsp dried chopped basil; if this seems excessive, feel free to use less
- 1 tbsp dried chopped oregano
- Salt & pepper
- Bottled lemon juice; this is only to be used if you will be canning the sauce using the water bath method. If you are freezing the sauce or using a pressure canner, the lemon juice is omitted. More information will be given below.
- Roast peppers: Over a gas flame or under the broiler, roast the peppers until skin has blistered and turned black. Place in a paper bag and close the top or in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; the captured steam helps loosen the skin. Set aside.
- Roast garlic: Heat oven to 350°F. Remove any loose flakes of skin from the head of garlic and slice off the top; revealing most of the cloves. Rub a scant amount of olive oil on the palms of your hands and then rub your hands over garlic. Wrap in a piece of foil and roast for 1 hour
- Prepare tomatoes: Fill a large non-reactive pot halfway with water, bring to a boil and nearby, fill a large bowl with ice water. Score an “X” in the bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife. Boil tomatoes for about a minute, remove with a slotted spoon and then plop them into the ice water. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel and discard (compost!) skins, using the paring knife to loosen stubborn areas. Add more ice to bowl as needed to keep water cold. Dump water from the pot and return to stove. Roughly chop tomatoes (for Romas, I usually chop in half or into thirds) and give a gentle squeeze to remove seeds. Some people are very diligent about removing the seeds. Me – not so much. I try to get as many as I can, but because I’ll be cooking the tomatoes for a long time, the bitterness of the seeds fades. Return chopped tomatoes to pot.
- Cook: Remove skins, cores and seeds from peppers. Roughly chop and add to pot. Add onion, minced garlic, wine and 1 tbsp sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. During this time the garlic should finish roasting. Remove it from the foil and when cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves right into the pot.
- Cook some more: Tomatoes will be extremely soft at this point. I use a potato masher to break up any large pieces, but prefer my sauce on the chunky side, so mash/blend to your desired consistency. Add the basil and if you are hesitant about using 1/4 cup, start with 1 tbsp, let it cook for a bit and then taste. Add oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste and, if needed, additional sugar 1 tsp at a time. Simmer, uncovered until sauce has thickened. This can take an hour or more.
- Decisions, decisions: Now that you have a pot of sauce, what are you going to do with it? You have four options:
- Eat it now.
- Freeze it.
- Can it using the water bath method.
- Can it using a pressure canner.
- Eat it now: Self-explanatory.
- Freeze it: Pour sauce into freezer-safe containers, allowing room for expansion and freeze. These are my preferred containers when freezing. You can put mason jars in the freezer, but only choose jars that have straight-sides and are without cracks and chips. Let the sauce cool before putting into glass jars and then let them come to room temperature before placing in the freezer. Extreme temperature changes can cause glass to shatter and I’m sure the last thing you want to find in your freezer are frozen shards of glass hidden in frozen chunks of tomato sauce.
- Water bath method: Add 1 tbsp of bottled lemon juice to each pint jar or 2 tbsp to each quart. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving a 1/2″ headspace. Wipe rims clean, place lid and affix screw band. Process for 40 minutes. Carefully remove jars and let cool on towel-lined counter for at least 12 hours. Check seals and label; immediately use or refrigerate jars that failed to seal correctly.
- Pressure canning: I’m referring you to a professional site as I do not own a pressure canner (scroll down to “Tomato Sauce”) and do want to be responsible if you blow up your kitchen or give your dinner guests food poisoning.
It may take some time, but homemade sauce is always worth it. Serve this over your favorite pasta or even use as a base for pizza. While I’m heating this sauce, I like to add a heaping scoop of chèvre as it adds a richness and mild tang that I find irresistible.
To answer a few questions:
- Why dried herbs? I do not think there is a scientific reason behind this. Most favor using dried herbs in canning recipes for the simple reason that herbs are best consumed when fresh and why waste fresh herbs in a sauce that is going to be cooked for hours and then stored? Make fresh pesto with your basil and use the dried stuff in sauce that is going to be saved for winter. Though, some people swear by adding a fresh basil leaf or two to each jar. I know this recipe calls for an obscene amount of dried basil, so please experiment: add fresh herbs, play with different herbs (I do love rosemary in a hearty tomato sauce). This is your sauce now. Own it.
- What’s up with bottled lemon juice? The pH levels of tomatoes need to be adjusted when using the water bath method. Though fresh lemon juice is always preferred when cooking, the acid levels vary from lemon to lemon, where as the acid level in bottled lemon juice is constant and known. The amount is large enough to adjust pH, but small enough not to alter the flavor.
Please let me know if you make this. I would love to hear what you thought and if you made any changes. Enjoy!