Summer, time of preserves. Once again the protagonists are the tomatoes, in a simple version, pure: the preserve, a universal name that does not need specification, because in my house the preserve is exclusively the preserve of tomatoes.
In the collective imagination the tomato is one of the elements that more represent Italy, along with mozzarella, olive oil and pasta. The tomato is used into the pomarola sauce, into the impressive Neapolitan pizza, the caprese salad and my family meat sauce.
Yet it is not always been so. The tomatoes came from Spain to Italy, in Naples, during the Spanish domination, and only at the end of the eighteenth century we began to use them as food: we have spent so much time to understand how gorgeous they are, both cooked and raw!
But with the help of the Italian sun and the ideal climate they quickly became one of our favorite vegetables, and even today tomatoes are the most consumed vegetables by the Italians: in summer I proudly do my part, contributing greatly to keep high the average consumption, choosing often tomatoes – the ox heart are my favorites – as a side dish or light main dish, with fresh onions, corn and Maldon salt!
Do you know that the Italian name for tomato – pomodoro, that sounds like golden apple – was likely initially attributed to a variety of yellow tomatoes, one of the first appeared in Europe from America? Nowadays the yellow tomatoes are among the most wanted and appreciated, along with the green, purple, striped ones… the heirloom tomatoes, a dream for many foodies like me!
My favourite farmer has all kinds of tomatoes, but they are all wonderfully and joyfully red! I’ve been thinking about that green corner so much lately, now I finally got some pictures of the vegetable garden and its products. I went there with my camera and, after having purchased a 10 kilos of tomatoes, I walked along the rows of green beans and tomatoes…
- ripe San Marzano Tomatoes
- basil leaves
Bring a large pot of water to the boil on high heath.
Throw into the pot the San Marzano tomatoes previously washed (you can do this in more batches, according to the quantity of the tomatoes and to the size of the pot you chose).
Let the water resume the boil and after 2 - 3 minutes remove the tomatoes and put them in a clean large cotton cloth.
Prick the tomatoes with a fork and then close the cloth to form a bag, as pictured above.
Hang the bag so that it can drain all the water, squeezing it often with your hands.
After about 2 to 3 hours, when the tomatoes have lost all the water, pass them through a vegetable mill using the finest sieve.
Collect the tomato purée in a bowl, then pour it into sterilized bottles or jars, adding a few leaves of basil.
How to store the tomato purée. Put the jars in a large pot and cover with water: bring to a boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes and then remove from the heat. Let the jars cool completely in the pan, then remove them from water. You can store them for several months in a dry, cool and dark place.
Now that all your bottles of ruby-red tomato sauce are lined up on a shelf or in the pantry, now that the smell and taste of summer are enclosed in a safe place… aren’t you already super-excited, thinking about how many other recipes you can do with the tomato purée? I am, and these are some ideas to use the tomato purée:
- pappa al pomodoro, the tomato bread soup, one of my favorite recipes ever, something that tastes of summer even if made during the long winter nights if you use the tomato sauce bottled during the very hot days of August. Delicious by itself or as a filling for ravioli.
- from Tuscany to Lucania, for the special occasions dish, the rich lasagna from the South of Italy!
- the most classic of classics, my big fat Italian meat sauce, the smell of autumn Sunday mornings.