So I went over to check on my community garden yesterday and found that my Roma tomatoes plants had gone crazy over the last week! I ended up coming home with this…
The only thing I could think to do with so many tomatoes was make homemade marinara sauce from scratch and freeze it. I ended up putting together a simple, classic recipe (below) and it was the freshest, tastiest marinara I’ve ever had. With fresh locally-grown tomatoes plentiful at farmers’ markets anywhere in the northern hemisphere this time of year, this is the perfect time to make a huge batch and freeze it for pasta sauces and homemade pizzas throughout the year. You’ll be glad you did.
In other news, VEGAN CHEESE!
If you’re wondering where I’ve been lately, well, I’ve been locked away in One Ingredient HQ toiling away on something really exciting… A few months ago I set out with the ambitious goal of creating vegan cheeses that look, taste, and act like real cheese – i.e. the parmesan should be solid enough to be grated, the mozzarella should make a firm stretchy ball, and you should be able to use them any way you would normally use that type of cheese. Most of all, they should have the same flavors and mouthfeel that all of us vegans are missing in current non-dairy cheeses. I’m happy to report that this project has been going extremely well. I’ve created a creamy mozzarella that is stretchy and sliceable, but melty in the oven. I’ve also developed a parmesan with beautiful aged flavors that is firm enough to be grated onto pasta or shaved onto a Caesar salad.
Seriously, I think these cheese recipes are going to be a game-changer for vegans – they already have been for me. They’re the closest thing I’ve ever tasted to dairy-based cheese and they’re extremely easy to make at home (i.e. no culturing or aging). So, I’m putting together a cool new eBook with recipes for 5 varieties of vegan cheese, along with a ton of recipes that you can make with these cheeses. That should be ready sometime in September and I’ll be sharing much more details as they’re available. For now, here’s a quick sneak-preview of a Margherita pizza made with slices of the melty mozzarella, as well as the best cheesy parmesan garlic bread I’ve ever had.
Now, back to this awesome marinara sauce!
Makes: two 24-oz jars
- 8-9 cups Roma or San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil
- 1 chili pepper (optional)
NOTE: if you just want to make one jar of sauce, the recipe can easily be cut in half.
To start, the tomatoes need to be peeled. This seems like a dreadful job, but it isn’t that bad with this broiling technique… Grab about 8+ cups, by volume, worth of tomatoes (take your best guess, the exact amounts aren’t super important here, as the flavors can be adjusted later on). Rinse them, cut out the stem and then slice in half. Place face-down in a pan or baking sheet with edges (to catch the water released from the tomatoes when heated) and then move them to your oven’s broiler until the skins are wrinkly but just before they start to char. Let them cool slightly, then simply pinch off the skin from each tomato. It’s that easy.
Note: to prevent your sauce from becoming too watery, make sure to drain out all the water that was released during broiling, and also give them a gentle smash with a spatula (careful, they’re hot) to wring out any excess water before adding the tomatoes to the sauce.
While the tomatoes are broiling, begin warming your largest skillet over medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil and throw in about 6 garlic cloves, loosely-chopped. Then, when the tomatoes have been peeled and drained, throw them into the pan along with a teaspoon of salt, a few tablespoons of minced basil leaves, 1+ teaspoon of dried oregano (and/or any other Italian spices that seem exciting to you, like thyme). You can optionally include a diced chili or tablespoon of red pepper flakes to add some heat. Let these simmer and break down over medium-low heat for a full hour, checking/stirring once or twice.
After an hour, the sauce will have broken down quite a bit, but it will still be too chunky, so transfer the sauce to a blender and pulse a few times for “chunky” sauce, and a few more times for totally smooth sauce. (Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender, if you have one, to puree the sauce right in the pan.) Then return the sauce to the pan and continue to simmer for at least another hour – time is essential for the acidic taste in the tomatoes to dissipate and the flavors to meld together. At this point, give the sauce a taste and feel free to adjust the salt or herbs to your liking. If the sauce has the right consistency, it’s done. Still a little too thin? Give it another 30 minutes of simmering to reduce/thicken even further.
The sauce can be used immediately or stored in refrigerated mason jars for a week. You can also freeze the sauce in zip-top bags (once cooled), muffin tins, or tupperware containers and simply thaw in a saucepan as needed.