Now that our tomatoes are coming in more rapidly than we can eat them fresh, I decided it was time to make some sauce. I love homemade marinara because not only am I able to use tomatoes and herbs grown in my backyard, I’m also able to control the other ingredients and keep it as pure as possible.
For this sauce, I used a combination of tomatoes from our various plants, Better Boy and Roma. Ideally I should have used all Roma, because those are the plum-style that the recipe I used called for, but I was just using up what I had.
Check out our weird-shaped Romas! Not exactly sure why they grew this way, last year they definitely didn’t look like that. Maybe something to do with the heat?
One big catch to using fresh tomatoes to make marinara sauce is dealing with the skins. If you have a food mill like I do, it’s pretty easy, but if not you’ll have to get some water boiling and remove them with a quick blanch.
I highly recommend a food mill if you’ve got the storage space – it’s not only great for removing skins for fruit and vegetable purees, it’s an absolute dream for making mashed potatoes in seconds!
To get started, I cut the tomatoes into quarters and removed the core, then squeezed out the seeds and cut the quarters into large chunks.
Then I sautéed the onion and garlic together in a skillet until soft.
Everything went in the slow cooker along with half a can of tomato paste and a pinch of sugar.
After four hours, I was ready to make sauce! I used the finest mesh disc on my food mill and after just a couple of minutes it was all pureed.
This stage is where I could tell I went a bit wrong my choice of tomatoes – I ended up with a really watery end product.
I definitely got a much thicker consistency last time I made it with canned Roma tomatoes! No worries, though – I just poured it over my browned meat and added the remainder of the can of tomato paste along with some fresh minced herbs, then let it simmer for a few hours and it thickened up a lot more.
The best part about a simmering meat sauce is the actual dinner prep is so simple – all I had left to do was boil up some pasta!
This was the first time I had tried the Bionaturae brand, an Italian import I found at Whole Foods, and fortunately it did not disappoint! It was a little bit on the gummy side when I initially tasted it, but once I sauced it up it was a very convincing substitute for regular pasta. Tinkyada still holds the top spot for me, but this was far better than some others I have tried.
Garlic & Herb Slow cooker Marinara Sauce
(adapted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook)
Makes about 5 cups
- 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, such as Roma (or two 28-oz cans of whole peeled plum tomatoes)
- 1 6-oz can of tomato paste, divided
- 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
- 1/2 large Vidalia onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- Pinch of sugar
- Handful fresh basil and oregano
Chunk up the tomatoes, removing the core and squeezing out the seeds (if you do not have a food mill, peel the tomatoes first). Add to the slow cooker insert.
Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic, then saute in a skillet over medium heat in a couple tablespoons of the olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes, then add to the slow cooker with the tomatoes.
Add the rest of the olive oil, half the can of tomato paste, and the pinch of sugar. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.
Once finished, run the tomatoes through the food mill to remove the skins. Mince the fresh herbs and add them to the sauce, then add the rest of the tomato paste to the sauce if necessary to thicken it.
Pour over browned ground beef to make meat sauce, and let simmer for a few hours to develop the flavors.