Garden’s Bounty: An Awesome Marinara!

Garden’s bounty is upon us and, thankfully, I’m literally up to my elbows in those luscious Indiana tomatoes we all covet. I’ve roasted them with eggplant, herbs and parmesan into an amazing tian. I’ve made my favorite fresh chopped salsa. I’ve eaten them with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper at each and every meal. I’ve given a fair number away.

But by far, my favorite thing to do with tomatoes is make them into a very simple marinara and freeze or can it for a quick blast of summer in January. Marinara is the perfect backdrop for so many dishes. In winter I’ll sauté whatever veggies are available and add a jar my sauce to make pasta or rice dishes. I’ll make a frittata and use the marinara as a sauce topping. I’ll open a jar, add some oregano and a pinch of sugar, and cook it down to a thick pizza sauce. The options are endless really.

I really like the stripped-down five-ingredient simplicity of this recipe. I also like this recipe because it doesn’t require peeling tomatoes and it doesn’t ask you to mince garlic. The end result goes into a blender where it becomes a smooth sauce with no traces of garlic chunks or tomato peel. It saves a lot of work and when you’re up to your elbows in tomatoes, that’s a very good thing! This recipe can also be doubled or even tripled if you have a stock pot or pan large enough.

Here’s the basic recipe:

¼ cup olive oil

1 ½ cup chopped onions

6 cloves garlic, crushed

4 pounds ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

salt to taste

3 tablespoons fresh basil, snipped

Heat olive oil in 4 qt. saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, cook until soft and golden, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and salt, bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.* Stir in basil and remove from heat.

*The length of time will depend on the type of tomatoes you’re using and their water content. Paste tomatoes varieties such as Roma and San Marzano are meatier with less water and will require less time to cook down. Slicing tomatoes such as Big Boys, Celebrities, Brandywines, etc. will be much juicier and take more time. Ultimately, you will decide the consistency you desire and the time it takes to get there.

At this point you can prepare the marinara for freezing or for canning. I prefer pint-sized containers for my family. Quarts might be best for yours.

If freezing, cool to room temperature then, working in batches, blend to a smooth consistency. Pack into freezer-safe containers, filling to about a half inch from the top. Sauce may expand with ice crystals as it freezes so give it a little headroom.

When I’m running out of freezer space or want to make gifts of marinara, I can it in pint jars. While canning is relatively easy, I strongly recommend that you consult with the USDA or another trusted source for instructions on how to can and follow their instructions exactly. Botulism is nothing to fool with and can be avoided but only with deliberate care. Here’s the USDA’s site: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html

Enjoy! Lorrie Heber

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