Classic slow pomodoro with some tweaks from me. Explanation is attempting to be as thorough as possible, but this really is stunningly simple.
If seeing the process with pictures helps, see thread here: https://twitter.com/David_Rudnick/status/1301221669755924481
Cook time, 30 minutes for the first steps, then 2 1/2 hours, or As Long As It Takes, for reducing and stirring. Go Slow. Taste the back of the spoon with your finger often. Make as big a batch as you feel comfortable with
Ingredients (ITS JUST GOOD TOMATOES AND AN ONION):
one large white onion (one of the big ones). If big one not avail, use a couple or a few medium onions.
8 to 12 large, ripe tomatoes (about the size of a large apple but go by ear). In some ways your limit is size of The better and riper these are the better and you can use more or larger tomatoes if you wish, it will not hurt, and you will get more sauce, but go very ripe, very red, you want the tomatoes to squish a little when you touch them. If you buy tomatoes and they arent super ripe yet, leave them in a bowl by the windowsil where they will get direct sunlight. Dont store fresh tomatoes in the fridge!!!
good olive oil
fine sea salt
as you can see this ingredients list is beautifully simple so the onion to tomato ratio is not exact. Just go for as many good tomatoes as you can get your hands on and will fit in your largest pan when chopped.
Optional for the skins BOOSTER SAUCE:
Fresh chillis any preferred variety
1 clove garlic
vegan or regular mayo (just as a bonding agent for the blend so you dont have to use insane ammounts of olive oil)
optional, fresh basil, Parmesan, or anchovies to taste
THE PREP STAGE:
• cross the base of the tomatoes with a knife, blanche in boiling water until they begin to pucker, then, transfer them to a colander filled with ice,
peel the skins, try keep as little flesh on the skins as possible, do not discard the skins, put them to one side separately.
• roughly dice the tomatoes and add them to a large bowl. Add a very generous dusting of fine sea salt to all surfaces, basically as if you frosting a cake with icing sugar. Use slightly more salt than you think is necessary. The capacity for salt to add flavour to tomatoes is huge and you are using a lot of tomatoes. dont let it pile but cover all the surfaces. Optional: At this point if you have an open bottle of wine in the kitchen, you can add a dash of red wine, prosecco, or white, balsalmic vinegar, totally optional but the sweetness and extra aromas dont hurt at all - this bit is to personal taste. Its absolutely fine just 100% Puro, but if you have an open bottle to hand, throw a cup in. Let that stand and absorb while you do the next steps, let the salt get to work breaking down that flesh and separating the juices.
You can really go for a lot of salt, dont be afraid.
• take a large, high sided pan with a flat base. Big old sauce pan, largest / tallest you have. Cover the entire base with olive oil, to a depth of about 1cm.
now come the only close to tricky parts. Get that oil to a low to medium heat. You want to add, quickly but one by one so that they can spread out without touching where possible, the discarded tomato skins you saved. The correct heat of the oil is when they rise to the surface and float, but you arent deep frying or really frying them. they should be at most very lightly bubbling, same as how i treat the basil in my other recipe (and am about to do in a minute.)
We are separating the natural oils in the skin from the skin structure here, which provide the incredible colour and some of the flavour. After a few mins the skin should start to curl up and go transparent, but the olive oil should be starting to turn a brighter and brighter orange. This is one of my secrets to this long cook. By infusing the oil with flavour we are about to carry the tomato flavour into the aromatics, which means you get even more tomato depth.
It should only take a few minutes, when the skins have released all their oils they go semitransparent and start to roll up like little cigars. At this point you can skim them off the surface, but theres still usually the last super flavourful bits of oil to be released from them, which you can get by bundling a bunch of them up as you skim and crushing them against the side of the pan, or transferring them to a sieve and crushing the oil back into a pan with the back of the spoon. If you want the BOOSTER SAUCE (you do) transfer the crushed skins to a blender. Aromas should already be incredible. They will only get better throughout!
• Dice your white onion, if you prefer a smoother sauce dice more finely, if you like the texture go rougher, I actually think a medium dice is best. Add the diced onion to the pan with the tomato-infused oil. Stir so that the basil and the tomato oils mix through with the onions and increase heat to light medium. cook for 10 mins until the onion has softened and begun to take on a light golden colour, no browning (stir to avoid).
While the onions soften, in your blender you should have all the gently caremelized skins. To this add fresh red chilis to taste, de-seeded (slice in half and scrape seeds with tip of teaspoon or tip of knife), and one crushed garlic clove. If you don't like Chilis or spice you dont even need to add them, maybe sub for anchovies or parmesan. I like to add a heaped tablespoon or even 2 if you used a lot of tomatoes of vegan mayo (you can use regular mayo) as a bonding agent for the paste, and then just enough olive oil to make it blend. If you dont use the mayo you may end up using too much oil.
You can also add anything else you want prior to blending that will enhance umami kicks in the booster - anchovies are mega here, or some grated parmesan. Blend. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid and place in the fridge. Adding a bit of this back to the final sauce if not classic or authentic by any means, but my god its good. But definitely dont add it now. You have a whole reduction to do first.
MAIN SAUCE: THE REDUCTION
This is a beautiful, calming, meditative process. Put a movie on on your laptop, pour yourself some wine, or put a record on that you love. You are about to do nothing but gently simmer and taste a beautiful sauce that will simply get better and better for the next 2 hours. So relax. This bit is as easy as it gets, and beautiful fun.
• now add all the tomatoes you had salting in the bowl to the pan and stir together. You should have what looks like a salsa. Do not worry! Turn the heat up slightly but never, ever, at any point in this recipe go more than a fraction above medium heat. As the volume of liquid in your pan reduces over the next steps, always bring the heat down slightly to compensate. This is the secret: the sugars in the tomatoes must never be exposed to a high enough heat that they are allowed to caramelise. This moment in the cooking process is irreversible: you never get deeper flavour after it as the structure has bonded.
• We are simply going to keep stirring that sauce at medium heat enough for the most gentle simmer, for however long it takes. It will transform from a salsa to the most richly red, incorporated sauce over the course of hours. Stir, scrape any residue that forms on the sides back into the sauce throughout (this is some of the most flavourful parts) and keep tasting the back of the spoon after you stir to monitor the flavour development. About one and a half hours in the flavours really start accellerating. By the end it will simply get exponentially stronger. Make sure the heat is adjusted gently downwards as the sauce gets drier and moisture evaporates, and of course, stir and taste every minute or two to make sure no solids stick to the base of pan or burn/caramelize. As long as the sauce is gently steaming and bubbling, good things are happening. Go with as long as it takes.
This is all you need. You will get there when you get there and simply stop when the sauce is maybe a tiny bit drier than your preferred consistency.
The sauce is strong and flavourful and so you should be able to take a large portion of it and place in a mason jar or other sealed container to keep in the fridge for the rest of the week, or freeze it if you are on full prepper bossmode.
When serving you can add a spoon of your BOOSTER SAUCE back to a few big spoons of the main sauce and then you are truly, as our friend Guy is want to say, in FlavourTown.