When our tomatoes started ripening in sufficient quantity to preserve, I looked up recipes for canned pasta sauce. For the first batch, I dutifully followed a recipe that called for skinning the tomatoes (place in a pot of boiling water until the skin cracks, then plunge into ice cold water and the skin will peel right off), then sautéing with onions, peppers and any other ingredients, then pureeing in batches in the food processor, then putting back in the pot to simmer and reduce. Those directions didn’t sound too bad until I actually implemented them. It took all day!!! It takes a LOT of tomatoes to make a batch of sauce so washing and skinning and chopping and sautéing and pureeing in batches was a lot of work, mess and time, and by the end of the day I was exhausted and wondering if it was even worth it.
Since then I’ve made several batches of pasta sauce and crushed tomatoes and while I’m glad to have the shelves full of things we will actually use this winter, I still felt there had to be an easier way.
So this weekend I decided to try something new. No research I did suggested it as a viable alternative but I tend to test boundaries and don’t always take “no” for an answer until I’ve thoroughly tested the hypothesis for myself. What I learned this weekend is that there IS an easier way to make pasta sauce – and I will never make it using those “tried and true” recipes ever again.
After washing the tomatoes, all I did was cut out any bad parts and the core, then place them in the food processor. In addition to the tomatoes, I had picked 50 assorted hot peppers – mostly Jalapeño and Cayenne with a few Banana Peppers – and some onions. While chopping the tomatoes, I also cut the tops off the peppers and peeled the onions. But rather than dicing, I threw the vegetables completely whole into the food processor. Each time the processor bowl was ¾ full, I zapped it until the veggies were pureed, then poured the puree into a stock pot. When that stockpot was almost full, I pulled out a second and continued pureeing the raw veggies until the second stockpot was also full – which coincidentally was also when I pureed the last batch of veggies. I didn’t time it but my sense is that it took about 30 minutes to fill 2 stockpots full of puree. Yes, the skins and seeds were in the puree. So what? More nutrition and fiber, yes?
The stockpots simmered for several hours until they had reduced to pasta sauce consistency. I then combined them into one pot so that I’d have a burner available to start heating the water in my canner. Once the canner was ready to go, I added ¼ teaspoon citric acid to each jar, filled them with the hot sauce and processed them (water bath) for 35 minutes.
This was SO much easier than the previous method. Although the veggies went into the stockpots raw, they cooked while they simmered. No need to dice, sauté, puree and THEN put back in the pot to simmer. I saved a lot of time dicing, by jumping straight to pureeing. And once the veggies were in the pots, all I needed to do was give them a stir each time I walked through the kitchen, but otherwise, I was free to do other things while they reduced.
After the jars were full, I found we had about another jar’s worth left over, so our dinner last night was pasta with freshly made sauce over it. It was SO good. HWA went back for three servings!!! And here’s the other thing: I’ve never seen “spicy” pasta sauce for sale at the grocery store. But, as you can imagine, with 50 hot peppers in it, this batch of sauce is pretty darned spicy. Now I’m wondering WHY none of the commercial sauce makers make theirs spicy.