she cooks…he cleans

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Fresh Heirloom Tomato Sauce

Heirloom Tomato Sauce - She Cooks, He Cleans

Our neighbor, Mike, from across the road is always kind enough to share his bounty of tomatoes with us.  It’s nice to have someone who takes pity on those of us with “black thumbs” when it comes to gardening.   We have spent untold dollars for a cumulative harvest of 4 or 5 eggplants and 3 beans.  Herbs I can grow, vegetables…not so much.

The last few weeks here in Georgia have been hot and stormy, and the rain has played havoc with Mike’s tomato crop.  He brought over a big box of near bursting Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomatoes.  Normally I would be eating these day and night in tomato sandwiches, slathered with mayo and covered in bacon.  Alas, we gave up grains and bread last fall – no more ‘mater sandwiches for me!  However they were perfect for making homemade tomato sauce!  You won’t believe the difference between the fresh taste of this sauce vs. supermarket sauces.

Despite the added need to use a food mill or a strainer, I find it easier to leave the skins on the tomatoes while they are cooking.  This does make it more important to choose organically grown tomatoes, as even well-washed tomatoes may have residual pesticides or other poisons in the skin.  However, if you wish, you can remove the skins by carving an “X” in one end of the tomato, dunking it in boiling water for about 20 seconds, and then placing it in ice water.  The skins should slip right off.


  • 3-4 pounds of ripe tomatoes
  • ~ 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced or shredded
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (I like this Ratatouille Seasoning from The Spice House, or use a mixture of your own)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh herbs, to finish (optional)

TomatoesCore and seed the tomatoes, removing any blemishes and rough spots.  Cut into chunks and place in a bowl.  (I had just over 3 pounds of tomato chunks.)

In a large saucepan, heat the EVOO over medium high heat.  Add the onion and carrots; cook until soft and lightly browned.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, for ~1 minute, then add tomatoes and any accumulated juices from the bowl.  Stir in crushed red pepper flakes and herbs.

Bring to a boil, with frequent stirring.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour, with occasional stirring.

Remove from heat and allow to cool somewhat for easier handling.  Place a food mill over a medium-sized saucepan.  Carefully pour the tomato sauce into the food mill (you may want to do this in batches).  Turn the food mill to process the sauce into the pan; discard the solids left in the mill.  Alternatively, use a mesh strainer to strain the sauce, pressing on the solids with a wooden spoon to extract as much sauce as possible.

Season the sauce with salt, to taste.  Also adjust other seasonings if needed (i.e. more pepper flakes if you’d like it spicier).  If your sauce seems too acidic (will depend on the tomatoes), it may help to add just a touch of honey to the sauce to cut down the acidity.

Bring the sauce back to a boil and reduce heat again to a simmer.  Cook uncovered for around 30 minutes or until the sauce reaches the desired thickness.  This time may vary depending on how “juicy” your tomatoes were.

When ready to serve, toss in a handful of chopped fresh basil, oregano, and/or thyme to put this sauce over the top!

Fresh tomato sauce can be held up to a week in the refrigerator, or frozen up to 6 months.

Someone once quipped that only 1000 people bought the first Velvet Underground album- but they all formed bands. Here’s two of the best. First up, Marquee Moon from Television. To my ears, this is the high water mark of American punk. The twin guitars of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd are truly magical, the songs are compelling and deep, and this record sounds as fresh- and as revolutionary as it did all those years ago. A must have.

A few years later is Penthouse from Luna. Formed from the ashes of indie favs Galaxie 500, Dean Wareham and crew created this masterpiece in 1995. It was their finest moment (of many), and even features Television guitarist Tom Verlaine on a few songs. “We can all go mad together/That’s what friends are for…” Classic!

17 comments on “Fresh Heirloom Tomato Sauce

  1. Ah to have a neighbor with too many tomatoes. I can’t even fathom having too many. This looks so wonderful.

    • T. Hill
      August 17, 2013

      I’m confused…should I be adding water to the tomatoes when I boil them?

  2. Nancy
    June 30, 2011

    I know, I am lucky! I can’t imagine having too many either…too many things to do with them! Thanks…

  3. fbenario
    July 1, 2011

    Marquee Moon is without peer as the best album, and the most important, ever recommended on this blog.

    (However, it’s connection to homemade tomato sauce entirely escapes me.)

  4. mannormyth
    July 2, 2011

    Ha! Escapes me as well, but what the heck…

  5. Heidi @ Food Doodles
    July 3, 2011

    That looks so delicious! I can’t wait to get tomatoes from my garden 😀

    • She cooks...He cleans
      July 3, 2011

      Thanks, Heidi! I can’t wait to put together an eggplant casserole with that jar of sauce this afternoon. Or more accurately, I can’t wait to eat some of it!

  6. Mona
    June 22, 2013

    Can you freeze this?

    • She cooks...He cleans
      June 23, 2013

      I have ZERO freezer space, so I haven’t considered freezing tomato sauce. However, I googled it and apparently you can. Put it in freezer safe containers and let it cool before putting it in the freezer – it should be good for at least 1 year according to some websites.

  7. Shelley
    June 22, 2013

    I just went tomato picking, this morning. I came back with two big buckets full. Some are still ripening. I’m definitely going to try this. Need to buy a Foley food mill.

  8. Rosemary
    July 24, 2013

    Hi, this sauce looks delicious! Do you think I could use a hand held blender instead of a food mill? Thanks.

    • She cooks...He cleans
      July 24, 2013

      You could use a hand-held blender to break up some of the ingredients, but the purpose of the food mill is to separate the sauce from the solids (tough tomato skins, carrot pieces, etc), because it presses through a perforated strainer. The solids should be discarded. If you don’t have a food mill, you can use a large strainer and just press firmly on the solids to extract the sauce.

      If you don’t mind a chunkier sauce, you can blend it all together. I don’t see any reason why not – -the roasted tomato sauce I posted recently has everything blended together (although with slightly different ingredients).

  9. T. Hill
    August 17, 2013

    I’m confused…should I be adding water to the tomatoes when I boil them?

    • She cooks...He cleans
      August 17, 2013

      There shouldn’t be any need to add water to the tomatoes- they should be plenty juicy and will break down to more juice as they cook. You’re not really “boiling” the tomatoes – just bringing the sauce to a boil, then doing a long simmer.

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