End-of-summer tomato sauce.

Yes, technically it is autumn. But farmers’ markets in our area are still hanging onto summer produce: I spotted corn, tomatoes, zucchini and beans holding their own among the winter squashes, broccoli, cabbage and potatoes last weekend.

I visited one of my favorite local vendors at Findlay Market, Scott Family Farm, and got a reality check: the baskets of red, ripe tomatoes were probably the last they’d have for the season. Sigh.

So I decided to make a vibrant sauce out of these end-of-summer beauties. It’s so easy to make fresh tomato sauce — and the result is flavorful and endlessly flexible. For dinner last night, we tossed about 2 cups of fresh tomato sauce with spaghetti, and topped it with a dollop of ricotta cheese, some toasted walnuts and a big spoonful of sautéed greens. Later in the week, I’ll warm up the leftover sauce in a wide skillet, crack a couple of eggs into the sauce and simmer them until they’re set but not firm —a classic Italian/Mediterranean dish that’s perfect with a big slab of buttered toast.

Too, this simple tomato sauce recipe freezes beautifully. If you’re so inclined, scout out a dozen or so blemished tomatoes at your farmers’ market (these are sometimes sold as canners, and they’re cheaper) and make up a big batch to freeze in plastic containers. You’ll be happy to have the flavor of summer come February.

easy fresh tomato sauce recipe

(makes about 4 cups)

3 lb. fresh ripe tomatoes (about 5 large)
4–5 sprigs fresh herbs (basil, oregano, tarragon and/or thyme)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
freshly ground pepper

Set a colander or strainer over a bowl. Peel the tomatoes: One easy trick is to scrape the blade of a small paring knife over the entire tomato to loosen the skin, which makes it easy to remove the skin by pulling it off in sections. Set the tomato peels in the strainer. Halve the tomatoes and use your fingers to scoop the seeds into the strainer. Tear the tomatoes into chunks and place them in a large pot. Use your hands to squeeze as much liquid as you can from the seeds and skin; transfer the liquid to the pot. Add salt, sugar and whole herb sprigs; add a generous grind of black pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat and gently simmer for 45–60 minutes, until sauce thickens. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove the herb sprigs before using.

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