This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to contribute to an awesome family tradition. You see, my partner is Italian and it is a well-known fact that if you are Italian, your family makes sauce every year. I was completely unaware of this as my family is Canadian and well, we always bought Classico. Oh, how sheltered I was. See, I had no idea that people actually took the time to do this. I had always just figure you bought your spaghetti sauce at the grocery store, heated it up when you got home and that was that! I was so very far off! You would not believe how incredible homemade tomato sauce tastes and because you make it yourself, you know everything that goes in it. Nothin’ better than that!
The tradition of making sauce has probably been around as long as the tomato. I don’t know the exact date it all started but I do know that it is a craft that is passed on from generation to generation. If you’ve never seen someone make their own sauce, let me tell you – it can be a bit of a process if you don’t have the right tools. However, once you’ve pureed the tomatoes and strained all of the skins and seeds out, it’s really just a simple canning exercise after that.
I tried to document this years “sugo” extravaganza but was caught off guard and didn’t have my good camera with me. You see, the process is completely dictated by the tomatoes themselves. You have to make the sauce as soon as they are ripe because if you wait to long the whole bushel can spoil. Talk about time sensitive! These iPhone pics will have to do!
What’s really special about this tradition isn’t the fact that you make enough delicious homemade sauce to last you all year, although it is a wicked bonus! What’s special is the time you get to spend with loved ones. It is a time to talk about your lives and spend some real quality time with your family. I am so very grateful that I get to be a part of it and jump at the chance to help every year.
I particularly enjoy hanging out with the older generations as they make the sauce their parents and grandparents before them made. There is so much to learn and so much we can absorb from their stories. Nothing is measured, everything is done by hand – often with machines they’ve made themselves! It’s just incredible to watch and take part in.
Each jar is filled with basil fresh from Nonno’s garden another home-grown, organic touch. Fresh herbs are such an easy way to add flavour to your dishes. And you can grow them year round on your windowsill! Or, if you have access to them now, you can hang them upside down and dry them yourself. They won’t be fresh but they will still be potent and delicious.
This is the final stage. You fill up your jars to the brim, tighten the lid like a son of a gun (I still have bruises on my palms!) and then boil the jars for around an hour or so until the lids “vacuum” themselves down. That’s me, on the right, in Nonna’s fancy apron. Be jealous!
And here is the finished product! Amazing, homemade, healthy and stupidly delicious sauce that will last in your pantry for at least a year. Pretty fantastic if you ask me.
If this process is a little to intensive for you (and I totally understand if it is!) – here is the recipe for a quick and easy, fresh tomato sauce that I make all the time. I got it from Chef Michael Smith, I love his stuff! This is me paraphrasing his genius.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
15-20 small roma tomatoes cut in half
2 large onions diced
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
Salt, pepper, oregano and basil to taste.
Place whole tomatoes, onion and garlic in an oven ready glass dish. Drizzle over top with the olive oil – approx. 1 cup, salt, pepper and seasonings. Toss everything together until well mixed. Roast in the oven at 400 degree for about 60-90 minutes stirring occasionally.
Mix with your favourite pasta and serve.
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