simple summer tomato sauce

Guys, there was this time in Italy that I wanted pizza but instead got gnocchi. The gnocchi was served in this knock your socks off tomato sauce that was so simple yet so flavorful. I remember when it was brought to the table, I was like.... wait, this is it? But it was phenomenal.

I'm not going trying to say I've made your grandmother's Italian tomato sauce but I did make a really flavorful simple tomato sauce ... from scratch. Like most things that I attempt to do, I thought it was going great... then it seemed like failure was imminent .... and then it all turned around some how and I had tomato sauce. Rather reminiscent of the chocolate mouse, butter, or french macarons experiments.

Given the bumper crop of tomatoes from my dad's garden, I knew I had to do something with these babies and this was a great use for them. When stealing produce from his garden, I chose cherry, grape tomatoes and the san marzano varieties .... but this recipe might have yielded more sauce if I had used something more traditional like a bigger beefier tomato. Next time.
All in all, making sauce was seemingly quite easy. Its a fair amount of do something, then walk away for a bit, then do something again, and hope for the best. Because you use a foodmill for this recipe, you don't need to worry about the tomato skins or the stems - so you really just chop the tomatoes and go for it. I love things that seem like shortcuts but are really how it all works.

So here's how it goes.

(Step 1) Cut your tomatoes in half and toss them into the pot. You need a smidge of water in the pot as well - about 1/4 inch. I know thats not exact and its hard to measure but don't worry it'll be fine. Sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons of salt (kosher or sea). Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Set to simmer. I put the lid on my pot.

(Step 2) Cook the tomatoes until the turn to mush. The next step is the food mill so the mushier the better - but again don't stress about it.
(Step 3) Put your food mill over a pot and slowly ladle the tomato mush into the mill. You can see those itty bitty stems that we don't want to end up in our sauce ... and will get stopped by the mill. Victory is ours.

(Step 4) Now the watery sauce goes back into a pot and back on the heat to simmer more, with another 2 tablespoons or so of olive oil. At this point, I was convinced that I had broken the sauce. Mine was just SO watery. I think part of the blame goes to the itty bitty tomatoes I used - not enough meat on those suckers. But, I figured I had nothing to lose so I put the pot on the stove again and hoped for  the best. I cooked it for at least 30 minutes more, simmering it on low heat but an hour is better.

(Step 5) At some point, toss in a few sprigs of basil. If you are me, you reach out on your fire escape in the dark for it. Pretty soon your apartment just has this phenomenal tomato and basil aroma... perfect for bedtime?
(Step 6) And that's it. Now you have sauce... I put mine in the freezer because I'm out of jars. It tastes great and I can't wait to use it soon.

Shopping List
2.5 lbs tomatoes
2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup olive oil
couple springs of basil

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