Summer is undoubtedly the season of the best fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes are a valuable ally of the summer for their nutritional properties (they are rich in vitamins) and their versatility in the kitchen. The tomato sauce is in fact the beating heart of Italian cuisine: can you imagine a pizza without sauce? Or a classic spaghetti dish? No doubt: tomatoes are much more than just vegetables, and are part of the Italian identity and the gastronomic traditions of each region.
Until a few years ago, the Italians prepared the tomato sauce at home, by hand, with local tomatoes, in a family ritual that today is almost completely lost. In the South there are still many who carry on this tradition, which - besides allowing you to savor the intense and authentic taste of tomatoes during the winter - also has advantages in terms of health (the homemade sauce has no preservatives) and impact on the territory (do not underestimate the importance - and the beauty - to be able to choose tomatoes!). In this short but detailed guide we will show you all the steps to prepare a perfect homemade tomato sauce, according to the traditional Apulian methods.
Which tomatoes to choose to have the perfect tomato sauce?
As we have already said, choosing the tomatoes to be used to prepare the sauce is one of the great advantages of this tradition: starting from the territory, you will identify the producer (or the distributor) to whom you can rely.
Our advice is to choose tomatoes with a dense pulp and an intense flavor, ideal to prepare the sauce: the best are the San Marzano tomatoes and the Sicilian tomatoes. The cultivation of the latter, a particular type of tomato, takes place by the sea, less than 1 km from the crystalline waters of Sicily. It is not just poetry: the tomatoes that grow in land overlooking the sea have a more intense flavor.
You can test it! But the San Marzano tomato is undoubtedly the king of the Italian sauce: long, consistent, does not open during processing, is one of the best peeled on the market because it has a compact, dense and non-acid pulp.
How to do the tomato sauce at home?
Making tomato sauce at home is not difficult, but requires time and attention. Take a look at these steps, illustrated in order, inspired by the ancient Apulian traditions, when the sauce was done in the countryside, in a sort of family ritual, during the summer.
- Wash the bottles or jars and sterilize them
Choose the bottles or jars you will need to store the sauce, wash them thoroughly with plenty of water and a bottle washer, then sterilize them (along with caps or lids) in boiling water. Let them dry and now focus on the tomatoes!
- Select the best tomatoes
Once you have chosen the type, you can proceed to the selection of the individual tomatoes: discard those too dry or those already open, verify that there are no worms (If the tomatoes are organic can happen!) and remove the stem from each. Wash them in plenty of water, removing residual dust and land, and wait for them to dry a little.
- The tomatoes cooking
It's time for cooking: boil whole tomatoes with water in a very large pot, turning them until they are soft. We reveal a secret: try adding a basil leaf in a pot: the smell will be irresistible!
- It's time to puree the tomatoes!
Once boiled, the tomatoes should be pureed with the vegetable mill or with special machines. Proceed slowly and put the sauce in a pot or in a special container. At this stage there is one of the most delicate moments: the test of salt! Taste the tomato sauce and add as much salt as needed: do not overdo it, though, because the sauce can also be salted later, just before use.
- Bottle the tomato sauce
Start by bottling the tomato sauce in the containers you have chosen. If you use bottles, equip yourself with a special capping machine. If you are using jars instead, make sure you have chosen the caps of the right size, to make sure you create the vacuum. An advice, above all: do not overfill the bottles, because they could burst in the boiling phase.
- Boiling the bottles
Immerse the bottles and jars in a very large pot with water, placing cotton cloths between them: this trick is to prevent the jars from bumping into each other. For this reason you should leave a bit of space between the bottles. This phase lasts for at least 40 minutes. But it all depends on the amount of tomato sauce you have prepared.
- Attention to conservation: here is the advice from the Italian Ministero della Salute
Your tomato sauce, at this point, is almost ready. Once you have removed bottles and jars from the water, you can begin to store them. But before putting them in the pantry, make sure that the vacuum has been done correctly. If everything went smoothly, you can store the sauce in a cool and dry place, preferably away from direct light. The production of homemade sauces is a "romantic" rediscovery, much loved even by the youngest, who prefer to know the origin of food. However, bad conservation can endanger our health, so the Ministry of Health has drawn up guidelines for the proper conservation of homemade food sauces, which we advise you to read.