Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
A lot of Marcella's recipes call for tomatoes that are ready for sauce. Last summer when the tomatoes were glorious, I accidentally stumbled on how good it was to get them "ready" and have them on hand. I swear next year when the tomatoes are glorious I am going to do a ton and put them up for the winter because they were so delicious, and if any of you haven't read the blog Cream Puffs in Venice, now is the moment to read about doing the tomatoes.
I want to mention a fabulous product at this point. Bella Cucina Artful Food's Organic Passata al Pomodoro. When I first wrote this post, December 31, 2007, Bella Cucina had a stand in the Market at Grand Central, which I discovered one day when I was stopping at Murray's to get some fresh ricotta. The week before last I shuttled over to Grand Central specifically to get a jar, and the stand was gone! These tomatoes are truly wonderful, surpassing anything I have found in a jar or a can. They are, however, smooth so if you want texture, they aren't for you. Other than that, they are fabulous. They are so good that I gave Amy a case for Christmas. That was easy. Their main HQ is in Virginia Highlands in Atlanta, and Wright went to pick them up for me. I hope she likes them as much as I do. So I don't know if anyone in New York carries these tomatoes; I'm going to try to find out; otherwise, I guess they would have to be shipped from Atlanta. Bummer.
The solution, of course, is to do your own.
There are two ways to prepare fresh, ripe tomatoes for sauce. First, you can blanch them by plunging the tomatoes in boiling water for a little less than a minute. Drain, skin, and cut into coarse pieces.
Next, is the food mill method, which produces a smooth sauce, and it is the one I use almost exclusively. Wash the tomatoes, cut them length-wise in half, and put them in a saucepan. (At this point, I add a little salt to taste, but you don't have to; you can add salt to the recipe you will use them in.) Turn on the heat to medium and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how thick the tomatoes are getting. I use the disk with the smallest holes to puree the tomatoes and all their juices through a food mill into a bowl, but you can use the disc with the largest holes if you want a coarser sauce. I put them away in one-cup increments. If you like, you can add some fresh basil before you put them away.