canning

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Have you looked at the ingredients of canned tomato/spaghetti sauces lately? You’d think they would be very simple, but surprisingly they have some hidden and unnecessary ingredients. Even Trader Joe’s organic marinara sauce has soybean oil in it, as well as parmesan cheese; I don’t find the cheese offensive per se, but does it have to be in there? So, I decided it was time to share an easy, tasty sauce of my own, which you can use as the foundation to any tomato-based sauce.

Although tomatoes arrived in Europe from the New World in the 16th century, tomato-based sauces didn’t start appearing on record until the 1790s. There is a staggering amount of variation to this seemingly simple sauce, with names to boot: In the US, marinara can mean just a tomato-based sauce, but in Italy it often refers to a seafood dish. The term tomato sauce also refers to any tomato-based sauce, except in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, where it refers to ketchup (pasta sauce is the proper term there). Neapolitan is a meatless tomato sauce, linked to southern Italy. A ragù is a tomato sauce with meat (often referred to as bolognese sauce outside of Italy). Finally, call me old-fashioned, but I just like to call it spaghetti sauce.

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We had a ton of tomatoes from our backyard garden during our most recent harvest. Last year I canned tomatoes, but this year I decided to take it one step further and make and can my own sauce. When deciding on the consistency of my sauce, I decided to make a sauce that’s smooth and chunk-free; that way I could easily use it as a pizza sauce, and could then use fresh tomatoes (or a can of diced tomatoes) to add chunks to a spaghetti sauce.

Because the amount of tomatoes you have may vary, I decided to keep this recipe fluid; you could make this sauce with as many or little of those red, savory fruits as you’d like.

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