Secret Family Recipe

Our half bushel of tomatoes sat on top of the washing machine for four whole days before I got around to deciding what to do with them.  It's not that I wasn't motivated to make something--I really was--it's just that summer is slipping away from me faster than I realized.  Really, where does the time go?  Anyone know the answer?

Tim and I decided that making some all-purpose tomato sauce would be the best option.  I say "all-purpose" because before we started tossing ingredients into the pot, I hadn't really considered what we would use this sauce for.  Pizza sauce?  Spaghetti sauce?  Are there other types of tomato sauce?

We started a sort of assembly line in our little kitchen.  Since we only have a small area of counter space, we set up stations.  Tim was over at the stove blanching and then peeling tomatoes and I was next to the sink working on coring and chopping.

We started our sauce operation around 5:00pm on a Thursday night.  I know it's ambitious to make sauce on a weeknight, but I knew we wouldn't have time over the weekend.  With our picky eater in high school now, our leisurely weekends are a thing of the past.

As I dropped the first batches of tomatoes into a boiling pot of water, I quickly realized we didn't have very much ice in the freezer.  Tim went out on an emergency bag-of-ice run while I made do with what little ice we had.

I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the skins of the tomatoes slid off after spending only 60 seconds in a hot bath and 60 seconds in a cold one.  Tim came up with a system to make a little slice on the bottom of the tomatoes and then pull the skins off from the bottom to the top.  He then placed the peeled tomatoes in a bowl on the counter while I tried to keep up my coring and chopping with his peeling pace.

You would think that we  were running a tomato factory with the amount of tomato juice puddling on the counter-top.  I tried to manage it by sopping up as much watery juice as I could after every few tomatoes, but eventually I started just pushing it into the sink and apologizing in advance to Tim for the inevitable clogging that would follow. 

Working in batches, I pulsed the chopped tomatoes in the food processor until the tomatoes were in small pieces, but not completely pureed.  We like a little texture to our sauce, but if you'd prefer yours to be thinner, by all means, process them more.  By the time we had finished processing all of the tomatoes, it was nearly 9:00pm.

Then this is where I have a little more trouble describing what we did.  I tossed in about 1/2 cup of olive oil, maybe more, a few tablespoons of tomato paste, a few cloves of grated garlic, some salt & pepper, and a half a palm-full of red pepper flakes.  It was more of a taste-and-go system where we would let it simmer for a while, taste it, and then add a little bit more of this or that.  At the very end of cooking, Tim tossed in a good handful of fresh lemon basil that he had chopped up.  It added a really great fresh fragrance to the sauce that I know will reemerge when we reheat this another day. 

Since we didn't strain the tomatoes before processing them, the sauce started very watery.  By 10:30pm, after lots of stirring and thumb twiddling, Tim was satisfied with the consistency.  We got out our little plastic containers and filled them up, taking care to date and label the lids.

Before putting the lids on, we let the sauce cool for 30 minutes or so.  Just when Tim could barely keep his eyes open any longer, we put the lids on the sauce and transported them to our deep freeze.  By the next day, our seven pints of sauce were frozen solid and ready for their fall hibernation.

While tomatoes are still available straight from the vine, we will keep buying them.  But in a month or so when there are no more local tomatoes in sight, we will have our homemade sauce--our secret family recipe.  So secret not even we could recreate it.


  1. You totally got my attention with the Secret Family Recipe title! Great post!

  2. Sounds like fun, and the sauce looks scrumptious! I had no idea you two were such "foodies" :) and now I know how to blanch tomatoes. A productive morning indeed.

    Hope to see you over Labor Day!

  3. Foodies in training, maybe :) Hope to see you soon, too!

  4. was 60 seconds really enough? wow! that's not bad.

    and what type of tomatoes did you use? i heard that makes a difference.

    do tell...

  5. Anon-- 60 seconds in hot and cold respectively was definitely enough. If for your tomatoes it's not enough, just repeat the process and adjust. I've heard some only put their tomatoes in hot for 15 to 30 seconds, so it might depend on the tomato.

    As for the type--we just chose ugly ones. I'm serious! I'm sure that the flavor will vary on the type of tomato, but ours were from a local farm and they were too ugly to sell for sandwich slices so we bought a half bushel for cheap. I'm guessing ours were probably a beefsteak variety but I really don't know. Since we were going for bulk sauce, that was fine.

  6. Can't wait to share the sauce! I'm sure it's amazing, especially with that fresh basil in it. You've inspired Dustin and me...we're going to make some (using your secret family recipe, of course)!


  7. Ames, if you can decipher the recipe by taste, it's all yours to share with anyone and everyone.

  8. Way to go, Jen, for this "ugly tomato" sauce, and getting it wrapped up by 9:00 p.m.! The amount of time it takes to blanch the specific tomatoes you're working with SO makes a difference, doesn't it? It's been a while since I've taken on a project like this, but I don't recall ever plunging the 'maters into cold water afterward - great tip!

    I also wanted to thank you for the kind comment you left over at my place. Awwww. Are you in for the Chocolate Smackdown? I don't think I'll be able to fit it in with my upcoming trip to CA, but I will definitely be looking forward to what everyone else has to offer.

    Keep on cooking - and blogging - with whatever strikes your fancy using the bounty of the season, my friend. I'm kind of getting ready to lose the heat and humidity and and shift into fall flavors. Hoping fall lasts as long as possible before winter sets. Where do the seasons go?

  9. I love stumbling on those recipes...the tast wna go ones, but you're right, the hard part is stumbling on them a second time!

  10. Eggy, I'm definitely considering the Chocolate Smackdown, but I don't want to just do a chocolate cake. I'm scouring recipes for something a little creative, maybe a little wild? With Labor Day weekend coming up, I just might have some time to do whip something up this month!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!