Magazine article Sunset

Too Many Tomatoes? Make Pasta Sauces

Magazine article Sunset

Too Many Tomatoes? Make Pasta Sauces

Article excerpt

Three easy recipes capture the full flavor of ripe tomatoes

TOMATO SEASON IS peaking, with end-of-summer heat quickly ripening fruit still on the vine. If you have a bumper crop of homegrown tomatoes or want to take advantage of good-quality, good-value tomatoes from the market, one of the best ways to use them in quantity is for pasta sauces.

Here we offer three distinctly different recipes designed to accentuate different attributes of the tomato. Each sauce will accommodate any ripe tomato--red, yellow, or green (yes, some varieties are green when ripe, as you can see above), big or small.

For best flavor, start sauces with fully ripe tomatoes; they should feel slightly soft, but not squishy, when gently pressed. If they have bruised spots or splits, trim generously around damaged areas. If tomatoes need to ripen, let them stand at room temperature out of direct sunlight for several days. Enclosed in a paper bag, they ripen faster.

The first recipe is for a big batch of a classic, slow-simmered spaghetti sauce. Its rich flavor base combines onions, carrots, garlic, herbs, and chilies. You can use the sauce as soon as it's cooked, or freeze some in convenient-size portions.

By contrast, the next sauce comes together in a flash. You stir-fry tomato chunks with chili oil just until the mixture is hot, add basil, then mix with hot cooked pasta--in any shape you like.

The last sauce is roasted. It develops a complex, smoky-sweet intensity and thick consistency that mingles well with either a plain pasta or a filled one like ravioli.

Be sure to accompany these pasta and sauce combinations with grated or shredded parmesan cheese; the cheese helps the sauce to cling.

All-purpose Spaghetti Sauce

Use this sauce as is, or, for variety, convert it to a meat sauce. To make a meat sauce, brown ground meat (beef, pork, veal, lamb, chicken, or turkey; allow 1/2 to 1 lb. meat for each quart of sauce), then add the sauce and simmer 10 to 15 minutes to blend flavors. Allow 3/4 to 1 cup sauce for each cup of hot cooked pasta, and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

2 large (about 1 1/4 lb. total) onions, finely chopped

2 large (about 3/4 lb. total) carrots, finely chopped

3/4 cup regular-strength chicken broth

10 pounds (about 6 qt.) ripe tomatoes, stems removed, peeled (if desired), rinsed, cored, and chopped

1 1/4 cups balsamic or red wine vinegar

1 cup minced parsley

1 cup minced fresh or 1/4 cup crumbled dried basil leaves

3 tablespoons minced fresh or 1 tablespoon crumbled dried oregano leaves

1 tablespoon crushed dried hot red chilies

Salt

In an 8- to 10-quart pan over high heat, combine garlic, onions, carrots, and 1/4 cup broth. Stir occasionally until liquid evaporates and vegetables start to brown and stick, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir browned bits free with 1/4 cup broth; boil until liquid evaporates and vegetables stick; stir occasionally. Repeat step using another 1/4 cup broth.

Add tomatoes, vinegar, parsley, basil, oregano, and chilies. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, until sauce is reduced to 9 to 10 cups, about 1 hour and 10 minutes; stir occasionally. Use sauce hot, seasoned to taste with salt. (If you did not peel tomatoes and want a smoother sauce, whirl mixture in a blender until pureed. …

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