Monthly Archives: August 2013

Tomato-Basil Sauce from Scratch

Tomato-Basil Sauce

The weather here in Michigan was unusually cool for much of the early part of the summer, so our tomatoes have been slow to ripen, but we’re finally getting lots of ripe tomatoes. I was able to collect enough tomatoes from our Roma plants to make a batch of sauce from scratch. It turned out to be just enough sauce for Kristina and I, so double or triple this recipe up as necessary.

A lot of people who otherwise enjoy cooking Italian food might think making tomato sauce from whole tomatoes might be too difficult or daunting. It takes a little time, and it’s a little messy, but it’s pretty easy. I made this today and the time from picking the tomatoes and basil to serving was less than two hours– and that was while making a batch of pesto on the side. And the result of sauce made from fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and basil directly out of the garden is transcendentally delicious. I couldn’t believe how good this was the first time I made it.

As mentioned, the tomatoes typically used for making sauce are Roma, or Plum tomatoes. If you want to try making this sauce and don’t have a garden with Roma tomatoes and basil plants, find a local farmer’s market. I wouldn’t bother using grocery store tomatoes for this sauce– they’ve usually been bred for hardiness when shipping, not flavor, and they’re harvested and shipped when not fully ripe so they can be transported with less damage.


  • About 28 medium-sized Roma tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 Cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)


Special Utensils:

  • Blender
  • Cheesecloth


Serves 2

Choose a batch of nice, ripe Roma tomatoes:

Blanching tomaotesHeat a pot of water and Rinse your Roma tomatoes. When the water is boiling, add the tomatoes a few at a time, leaving each batch in for a minute of so at a time to loosen the skin of the tomatoes which makes them easy to remove. Don’t throw them all in at once like I did in the pic here– it’ll take a while for the water to get boiling again and you don’t want to cook the tomatoes too much, just enough so the skin pulls right off. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Once the tomatoes are out, rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process and cool them off enough to handle.

Now here’s what to do to each tomato:

Cut off the stem end and remove the skin.


Cut in quarters and scoop out the seeds and jelly, leaving the “meaty” part of the tomato.

Dice it up. Now just repeat a few dozen times.

cheeseclothNow we take the diced tomato pieces and put them in a ayer of cheesecloth folded double. wrap up the cheescloth around the diced tomatoes and tie the top of the cloth around a wooden spoon. Twist the spoon to tighten the cheesecloth and squeeze the excess water out of the tomatoes. This step is important– if you skip it your sauce will be watery.

When you’ve squeezed out all the water you can, put some or all the diced tomato pieces in a blender and puree. I like my sauce a little chunky, so I reserve a half to a third to stay diced and process the rest.

Now we’re ready for cooking. Heat up a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a pan and sautee the diced garlic. When the garlic is softened up, our in the tomato sauce. Add the salt and pepper to taste and simmer for about ten or fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

sauce-basil2While the sauce is cooking, cut up the basil leaves. A simple way to do this is to stack batches of basil leaves from large to small and roll them up, cutting the rolled up leaves into strips. Add the basil and cook for 5 more minutes.

The sauce is complete! Add to your favorite pasta and serve with a little grated Parmesan cheese if you like. Enjoy!