Preserving Tomatoes The Italian Way

Preserving Tomatoes The Italian Way

As tomato growers, we’re quite alike in some of our thoughts. Well before it’s harvest time, our mind starts flooding with all kinds of sauces, soups, and salsa recipes to preserve our ripe stash of tomatoes. One of the most popular ways to preserve tomatoes (and probably the yummiest way) is to make sauces.

preserving tomatoes the Italian way

True Italian Flavors Without An Italian Ancestry

Italian tomato sauce goes with hundreds of everyday recipes – spaghetti, pizza, lasagna, sausages, meatballs, pork chops, and anything else that pops in your head! Italians are well renowned for making amazing sauces from the best tomatoes. You don’t need to have an Italian ancestry to bring out those original flavors in tomatoes. Keep reading and find all the secrets to an authentic Italian tomato sauce that will make Italian grandmas jealous! 

Best Tomatoes For Sauce Canning

Technically speaking, you can make tomato sauces with any kind of tomatoes you get your hands on. However, if you want a truly delicious sauce that becomes your signature, go for the paste tomatoes – here’s your very first secret! There are numerous paste tomatoes you can grow for your Italian sauces or purchase from the farmer’s market. If you want the best flavour try growing your own tomatoes at home. 

What makes them ideal for pastes is the fact that they’re meatier and firmer, with fewer seeds, and less water content. With these features, you can make more sauce with fewer tomatoes, together with easier preparation and shorter cooking time. 

Here are some varieties that make the best paste tomatoes:

  • Roma

Roma is the classic choice for all Italian recipes and works well for tomato canning and tomato sauce. While it’s the preferred choice for canning tomato sauces, the good news is that it’s easily available. Roma tomatoes are usually 3 inches long, but you can also find larger varieties to cut down some of the prep. The common Romas aren’t too sweet, but you can choose orange Romas if you appreciate your tomato sauces a bit on the sweeter side. 

  • San Marzano

These red, plum-shaped tomatoes are another excellent choice for Italian pastes. It’s, in fact, sometimes referred to as the classic paste tomato for some obvious reasons. San Marzano is meaty, sweet and usually grows to about 2 to 3 inches in length. They’re easy to peel, have very few seeds, and are low on acidity – all the right reasons to paste them!

  • Amish Paste

These heirloom tomatoes are quite similar to Roma in their flavor and texture. They’re juicy, and a bit sweeter than Roma, and grow to about 10 ounces, making them perfect for preserving as a fresh Italian paste. 

  • Margherita

If you want larger varieties, Margheritas make the best paste tomatoes that only take around 70 days to grow to maturity and produce around 6 inch long fruits. Apart from Italian sauces, they work great in stews, pasta, and more. 

  • Big Mama

Big Mama is also one of the larger varieties that you can grow for pastes and sauces if you want to cut down preparation and cooking time. These plump tomatoes grow to as long as 5 inches, with up to 3 inches in width. Consider them a heftier alternative to the classic Romas. 

Preserving Tomatoes

Ever went to an Italian restaurant, ordered a dish with a weird name, and wondered where that spot on flavor came from? It’s all in the sauce. Once you know what ingredients go in there and in what quantities, you can perfect it better than any Italian chef. Use your homegrown tomatoes to make this excellent tomato sauce extra special.

Behold! Let the secrets of the heart and soul of every Italian recipe unfold before you.  

What Is The Italian Tomato Sauce

Can you tell apart the Italian tomato sauce from the several dozen other tomato sauces? Or do they all look the same to you? The traditional Italian recipe is a tomato sauce that cooks on low heat for a long time for the richest flavors. To add authenticity make sure to use at least one of the tomatoes from the list above like San Marzano or Roma.

The Secret Recipe – Finally!

It’s time for the big secret! Just follow the guidelines and you’ll have your own homemade Italian tomato sauce ready in no time. 

Italian Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • Pinch of red chilli
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¾ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 3 to 4 lbs garden-fresh tomatoes (or canned tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Cooking Steps

  • Wash the tomatoes with water.
  • Cut the tomatoes all up in large chunks. The tomato pieces should be large since you don’t want a smooth sauce, lumps are good in this case!
  • Place a large pot over the stove but don’t turn on the heat just yet. 
  • Add a little olive oil, and to it, add garlic, onion, red chilli, sugar salt and pepper. Add part of oregano, basil and mint at this stage, and leave some to add at the end. 
  • Turn on the heat and let the spices cook for 5 minutes; keep stirring. 
  • Next, add the tomatoes. Turn the heat to medium high and bring the tomatoes to boil. 
  • Once you see bubbles in the pot, reduce the heat to low and let the tomatoes simmer for over 1.5 hours (90 minutes). 
  • After 1.5 hours (90 minutes), turn off the flame and add the remaining oregano, mint, and basil to the tomatoes
  • Add Parmesan cheese and butter to bring out even more flavors. 
  • Give the sauce a good stir and serve! 
  • If you give the sauce a day to nicely blend all the flavors, you’ll enjoy an even better taste. 

How To Preserve Fresh Italian Tomato Sauce

Canning Tomatoes

One of the best ways to save space in your freezer is to can tomatoes. This process requires a water bath but if you can get tomatoes canned they will last a lot longer.

  • Let the tomato sauce cool, until it is at room temperature.
  • Pour the tomato sauce out in airtight mason jars, leaving half an inch empty at the top of the jar.
  • Seal the lit tightly and place the mason jars in the fridge. 
  • The tomato sauce stays fresh in the fridge for about a week. If you find any mould appearing, it’s time to toss it in the trash.

Can I freeze fresh tomatoes for later use?

yes! if you don’t have the necessary hot water bath, jars or time for canning tomatoes then you can freeze them instead,

  • Let the tomato sauce cool to room temperature.
  • Pour the tomato sauce out in ziplock bags and seal it.
  • Store the sauce for over 3 to 4 months. 

How To Use The Italian Tomato Sauce

So you have your fresh Italian sauce waiting in the fridge (or freezer). What do you do with it? You can use them in tons of recipes to create gourmet dishes. Here’s a list you can try from:

Conclusion

You don’t have to be a chef to recreate the gourmet dishes you order at the restaurant. You just need the right ingredients. Once you’ve selected your tomatoes with care and followed the guidelines to cook them, you’ll have your own homemade Italian sauce that you can use to create pastas, meatballs, lasagne, pizzas and much much more. The best part is that they’ll have all those authentic flavors that you thought only an Italian chef can perfect. 

So are you ready? Make a trip to the farmer’s market and gather the freshest Romas or San Marzano tomatoes. Better yet, grow tomatoes in your backyard and you’ll have an even healthier, organic sauce to go with your everyday recipes.

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