Read Part 1 on “Tomatoes for Amateurs” and Part 2 on “Tomatoes for Inspiration.”
A satisfying experience on a cold winter’s day is opening your own preserved tomato sauce, forsaking those anemically pale tomatoes of the supermarket. When you preserve your own tomatoes a half year before the no-fresh-tomato season of midwinter, you can still make summer jump out of your jar. Yes, that’s how good it is. And the dishes you can make!
You start with preserving jars. Preserving jars, canning lids and other supplies are sold in the supermarket, in hardware stores, kitchen supply stores and on the Internet too.
Check the jars for nicks or cracks. Wash the lids, bands and jars in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher. Make sure they are well rinsed and put the lids and bands in one pot with water to cover and bring to a simmer (180 F). Remove them from the heat and leave in the pot while you continue.
In another larger pot place the jars, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat but leave the jars in the pot until ready to use.
Using a wide-spouted funnel, or a spoon if you don’t have a funnel, fill each jar to a half-inch from the very top of the jar. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean damp cloth, making sure you wipe the threads of the jar, and check that there is no sauce anywhere. Using tongs — not your hands — remove a lid from the pot and place on top of the filled jar, making sure the little rubber area of the lid fits snugly on top of the rim of the jar. Remember, at no time do you use your hands; manipulate everything with tongs and a fork. With the tongs, remove a band and carefully place it on top of the lid and screw the band evenly and firmly down. Make sure you do not use excessive force.
Now you have to process the sauce, which is done with tomato sauce by placing the jars into a boiling water bath. Boil for one hour. Remove from the water and place on some cloth towels, away from drafts and leave for 24 hours. Test the seal. If the center lid is down, the jar is sealed and you can remove the band. Wipe the jars clean and store in a cool, dry dark place. Remember that although you can reuse the bands, you cannot reuse the lids. If you have any jars that are not sealed, you should use the sauce within two days, storing it in the refrigerator. Or, you could freeze it for longer, though you would have to put it in another container.
There you go … tomato sauce from scratch. And here’s what you do with it:
In households of the hamlets dotting mountainous Sicily, ruffle-edged lasagna, lasagne ricce, is made with an apparatus called an arbitriu. Pino Correnti, the Sicilian food authority, reports that older recipes for this lasagna “d’arbitriu” call for chocolate, vino cotto (a cooked wine), cinnamon and other spices. This recipe is the very simplest one, but I recommend it because it’s a chance to use homemade lasagna and your own homemade tomato sauce.
Free-style lasagna with tomato sauce
- Prepare the lasagna, if making homemade.
- In a saucepan, heat the tomato sauce and add the cinnamon.
- Bring a large pot of abundantly salted water to a boil and then add the pasta when the water is rolling.
- Drain the pasta when al dente and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss with the tomato sauce and serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Zester Daily contributor Clifford A. Wright won the James Beard / KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year Award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000 for “A Mediterranean Feast.” His latest book is “Hot & Cheesy” (Wiley) about cooking with cheese.
Photo: The beginnings of a tomato sauce.