Heirloom Marinara – The Good Stuff

I’ll let you know right off the bat that to make some seriously good marinara you need to start with some seriously delicious tomatoes.  I recommend buying organic heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market while they’re still in season.  Because they can be expensive I recommend finding a farmer that has great tasting tomatoes but is willing to sell you the less perfect ones at a discount.  At the markets I frequent in Los Angeles good heirloom tomatoes are $3-4 a pound, but for soft ones you can sometimes get $1/lb.

Once you’ve handled that, prepare yourself for the best damn marinara of your life.  It’s not that hard, you can make it overnight in a crock pot and then man-oh-man are you in for a treat.  I keep large jars of the stuff in the fridge for pasta, pizza, panini, or just to cover steamed veggies or brown rice.  I’m trying to build up a reserve in the freezer because now that I know what tomato sauce can be and I can’t imagine making it until next summer without this stuff.

This recipe is very simple, using only onion, pepper and a few italian spices to compliment the tomatoes, but you can dress up your sauce with your own herbs and veggies.  It’s great with garlic or mushrooms, and adding a shredded carrot can lend some sweetness if that’s what you’re after.

Heirloom Marinara
sweet or bell pepper
olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
fresh basil
fresh parsley
soft heirloom tomatoes

Dice up the onion, pepper, and fresh herbs.  I used one onion, one sweet pepper (bell pepper would be fine,) and a small handful of both fresh herbs, minced.

Heat up a bit of oil in a large pot, about 1/4 cup, and soften the onion and pepper in the oil over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.  Add in the herbs and a touch of salt at this point, as well as any other veggies you would like to modify your sauce with.  Once cooked, add this mixture to the bottom of your crock pot and start adding in your tomatoes.  I have a large slow cooker, 5 liters I believe, so if you are using something smaller or larger then adjust the recipe accordingly.

You want to get all the juice and seeds from each tomatoes into the pot, because that’s where all the flavor comes from.  But the skins are flavorless and tend to curl up when cooked, leaving annoying little rods of skin that ruin the texture, so those are best left out.

Cut off any stems, tough or yucky bits and squeeze the inner contents of each tomato into the pot, keeping the skin in your hand (note: this can be messy! i do most the cutting over the sink and keep the crock pot close by.)  If the tomato is very soft the insides should slide out of the skin no problem.

If your tomatoes are a bit little less ripe there are a few other things you can do.  You can skin the tomato on a cutting board with a sharp knife, but this is going to leave some of the flesh and juices behind, using a cutting board with a lip around it helps reserve some of the juices.  You can also get a large pot of water simmering, score the tomato skins, then boil them for about 30 seconds, and then shock them in a bowl of water and ice.  This blanching method brings the skins right off no problem, but takes a bit more equipment, time, and it also looses a bit more of the juices.

If the tomato is small and very soft I usually just use the flesh of the tomato whole.  For much larger tomatoes I either mash the flesh up in my hands or dice it up on the cutting board, this is just to prevent the sauce from being too chunky in the end and helps everything cook more evenly.  If you like your sauce even smoother you’ll want to either mash all the tomato pulp well before you add it into the sauce or food mill/process the sauce after it’s cooked.

Fill up your pot all the way to the top and let it cook on high heat.  I find that even high heat on a crock pot is low compared to the stove.  If you are cooking on the stove it will cook faster so you need keep on a low simmer for about 6-8 hours, stirring frequently.

In the crock pot I alternate cooking with the lid on and off (to let it heat up I keep the lid on, to let the liquid to cook off I take the lid off,) but it takes about 12-24 hours total for it to cook down.  Ultimately the sauce should be about half of the volume you started with, it should be thick, darker, and have a slightly caramelized flavor.  I notice this sauce is usually a lot more sweet than store-bought varieties, most likely because of the quality of the tomatoes.

You can use it right away or let it cool before jarring it up to be stored.  Make sure to follow standard jarring/canning procedures if you’d like your marinara to be stable at room temperature, otherwise you can store long-term in the freezer for a few months.

Thoroughly enjoy!

Yields about 32-48 oz


One Response to “Heirloom Marinara – The Good Stuff”
  1. Heirloom tomato marinara sounds good!

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