I have thought a lot about the time I will become a renowned food blogger. Highly visible, sought after for work and interviews. I’ve always wondered about the questions I will be asked, the issues I can’t wait to talk about, and how I will tell my story. Recently I figured out an answer to my favorite question, “What three ingredients are a must-have in my kitchen?” For a long time, I would individually name spices, vegetables or other produce that I loved consuming. They would always end up being more than five but not sufficient to build the flavors in the delicious dishes I make.
The answer was building blocks. Building blocks are ingredients made from simple ingredients using basic recipes but are essential to the finished dish. This response also allowed to name at least three must-have ingredients in my cooking without feeling like I was undervaluing the enormous depth of flavor they create. They form the foundation of my meals binding all base flavors of the dish together. With all the complexity they bring into meals, building blocks are unexpectedly easy to make and use. Through a bit of practice, they will utterly transform your cooking.
In my Building Block posts, I will introduce you to my favorite base flavors of my cooking and some of the delicious dishes I have crafted using them. You will see them often in my recipes and hopefully your fridge waiting to be used in your next throw down.
Homemade Tomato Sauce is first on my building block list. Not only are tomatoes a must-have in any kitchen, but they are used a lot in cooking. For that reason, it is great to have homemade tomato sauce on hand as it is a foundation for many dishes. I make this whenever I do grocery hauls from my country home or my local market. It stores well and comfortably in the refrigerator compared to the massive tomatoes. The sauce also gives you a chance to cook your tomatoes while they’re still fresh and preserve their freshness. In the following weeks, I forget all the stress of chopping tomatoes whenever I’m cooking. Whether it’s pasta in sauce, pilau or any dish that uses cooked tomatoes.
I use a basic recipe with minimal prep that results to a sauce with good consistency and deep notes of sweetness. In the past, I would blend all the ingredients in the sauce and simmer them down in a greased pan without stirring until it reached the desired color & taste for a sauce. This was naturally an easy process, but I was losing out on a lot of flavors especially from the aromatics. With a little research, I discovered I had all the right components for a sauce, but I needed to work differently to boost their flavors.
My current recipe is started by lightly cooking minced garlic in olive oil and butter. Olive oil not only adds a creamy texture to the sauce as any fat would but also adds flavor. Butter is optional to me because there are periods I go dairy free. I then cook the spices and the garlic until fragrant, but not browned. I added the carrots and blended tomato and onion. The carrots and white onions aid in enhancing the sweetness of the sauce as the tomatoes by themselves can be a bit tart. I cook the sauce down for one and a half hours, steeping the fresh basil in it 30 minutes before cook time is over until the sauce cools down. To boost the freshness of the sauce, reserve a cup of uncooked blended tomato and onion and add it when the sauce is done. Finish off with drizzle of oil for extra flavor.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
Blended tomato and onion (reserve 1 cup)
- 3½ pounds (1.6kg) fresh ripe tomatoes
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup water
5-7 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 tsp dried rosemary
1 small bunch fresh basil or 2 dried bay leaves
1 medium carrot cut into chunks
Salt to taste
Makes: 2 ½ cups approximately 600ml
Takes: 20 minutes prep time, 1½ hours cook time
Equipment Needed: blender or food processor, large heavy bottomed pot, glass jars with lids for storage
The tomatoes should be fresh and ripe, with a dense red flesh. Once you taste the flavor you get from such tomatoes; you want to always to make this when tomatoes are in season.
Wash the tomatoes and onions. Roughly chop up them up and blend them with one cup of water until smooth & well mixed.
In a saucepan, heat one tablespoon olive oil and butter over medium heat for a minute being careful not to burn the olive oil lest it turns acrid. Add garlic, black pepper and salt and fry for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. If you’re using bay leaves, add one or two at this point with the oregano and pepper flakes. You want to cook the garlic quickly over medium heat, so it doesn’t burn and maintains its delicious mellow taste.
Add the carrots and fry for a minute before adding the blended tomato.
Add the blended tomato and onion. DO NOT STIR. Cover the saucepan and allow most of the liquid to reduce to leave only the sauce. This will take about 45 minutes on medium heat.
When using fresh herbs, I add them in the last 30 minutes of cooking and allow them to steep in the sauce for 20-30 minutes after the sauce is ready. Here I added a fresh bunch of basil, to boost the freshness of the tomatoes and the aromatic flavors of garlic.
After one and a half hours’ total cook time, the sauce is ready to be taken off the heat. Remove the carrots and herbs. At this point, I add the remaining cup of blended tomato and onion. Check the seasoning, and adjust where needed. And finally, finish the sauce off with a drizzle of olive oil.
After an hour or so of cooling the sauce is ready to be spooned into sterilized jars while they’re still hot. To sterilize glass jars for preserves let the glass jars sit in a 20-minute boiling water and ACV water bath. Once the jars with the sauce have cooled, you can store the sauce for up to a fortnight in the fridge or freeze it for up to a month. Trust me you will always want to have a jar of this in your fridge.