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Secret of the sauce

October 20, 2012


I thought it was beaucoup fun to catch Maryland blue crabs, though it wasn’t something I knew I wanted to do until it was happening… The following weekend, I was invited to do something I have been dreaming of for many years – maybe 11! I went to Long Island to make tomato sauce with my college roommate and her Italian family!

Almost every year, everyone in the family sets aside a day in the summer to put on an old t-shirt and get down to business! I’m not sure if 16 bushels of tomatoes means anything to you, but I had no idea what this meant until I saw the crates of the red Italian plum variety in the driveway… It’s a lot! The Bianco’s are serious about their sauce and have special pots, grinders, propane burners, etc to use especially for this purpose. It’s all large and made for volume, and I think the wooden stirrer in the picture above is taller than my friend’s mom 😉

I felt honored to be a participant and witness to the process, and will share the steps with you that lead to the jars of delicious sauce that can be stored for use throughout the year. But I will tell you that the true secret of the sauce lies within its maker – it takes a lifetime of practice and observation to know when the consistency and flavor of a batch is just right…

1. Wash the tomatoes, look at each tomato to make sure there are no blemishes, and if so, cut them out (whole tomatoes and cut tomatoes go in different bins, and the steps below only apply to whole tomatoes)

2. Boil the tomatoes until they look wrinkled, stirring as necessary

3. Drain and cool and puncture with a large fork

4. Squeeze out excess water, preferably in a fine Italian tablecloth 🙂

5. Run the tomatoes with fresh basil through the grinder two times

6. Salt to taste and stir

7. Transfer to jars, making sure there are no bubbles, and twist on the lids

8. Boil for 20 minutes to seal

9. Let cool and store

10. Eat a huge dinner with wine and joke about how much work it is to make sauce!!

I had such a blast in Long Island (as always!), and was humbled by the time, effort, and intuition required to make the perfect tomato sauce. I look forward to heating some soon to enjoy with a simple pasta and will raise my glass to Nonna and her gals who have carried on the tradition…

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