how to make quick fresh tomato sauce

Easy fresh tomato sauce.

If technology was really as good as it could be, you’d be smelling the wonderful tomato-garlic aroma coming from my kitchen through your computer screen as you read this post. But since computers don’t (yet!) have a scratch-and-sniff function, you’ll have to take my word for it.

This unusually temperate summer and ample rain has produced a glut of tomatoes in my garden. [As an aside, I can't recommend highly enough the grafted tomato plants from Jung Seed Co. I planted three cherry varieties: Bumble Bee Pink, Sweet Aperitif and Sun Sugar, and I've never had such a bounty of tomatoes from my own backyard.] I wish I’d kept record of the number of pounds of cherry tomatoes I’ve harvested. Next year. There’s always next year.

After another big picking this week, I’ve got a colander full of salad-sized cherry tomatoes simmering with fresh garlic (also from my garden) and sprigs of herbs. I wanted to share this recipe for making tomato sauce out of fresh garden tomatoes; the recipe calls for full-sized tomatoes, peeled, but the cherry tomatoes I’m using work well, too. In a few minutes, I’ll transfer the sauce to prepared pint jars and process them in a water bath canner for 15 minutes.

While tomatoes are still plentiful at farmers’ markets, you’ll want to make this fresh tomato sauce recipe, too. If you’re not into canning, no worries: You can ladle the cooled sauce into plastic containers or quart-sized zip-top bags and freeze it for later.

Like, in February, when you’ll be craving the flavors of summer tomatoes.

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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Drink, dine and support Findlay Market!

Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity in Cincinnati: Dine with the city’s best chefs, enjoy wines paired with their food at 12 tasting stations and mingle with your neighbors — all while supporting the nonprofit organization that manages our historic Findlay Market! Eat Local for the Globe is Thursday evening (and the weather’s gonna be perfect).

Findlay Market has invited chefs to shop the market and partner with Market vendors. Teams include:

odd Kelly, Orchid’s + Eckerlin’s + Colonel De
Jean Robert de Cavel, Jean Robert’s Table + Luken’s
Julie Francis, Nectar + Pho Lang Thang
Joe West, The Palace + Mama Lo Hizo
Joel Malloy, Nicola’s + Fresh Table
Adam Cobb, Enoteca Emilia + Mediterranean Imports
Ryan Santos, Please, + Eli’s BBQ
Suzanne Church, Metropole + Dojo Gelato
Renee Schuler, Eat Well + Taste of Belgium
Stephen Williams, Bouquet + Madison’s and Grandma Debbie’s
Dave Taylor & Jason Rose, Jeff Ruby’s
Travis Maier, The Precinct
Bouchard’s, Maverick Chocolate, Mimi’s, Velvet Smoke, and more.

Purchase tickets here and join us Thursday evening.

Jungle Jims Cooking School

Join me for a cooking class with favorite vintage recipes.

I invite you to join me on Tuesday, September 9 for a class I’m teaching at The Cooking School at Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield, OH, called “Grandma’s Blue Ribbon Recipes.” I’ll be sharing a recipe from The Clara Project, plus three of my grandmother’s best recipes and another I’ve discovered in a vintage cookbook. These are all heartwarming, simple and comforting recipes:

  • Classic cheese straws (made with a cookie press!)
  • Grandma’s homemade egg noodles
  • Easy chicken stock
  • Chocolate pudding cake
  • Old-fashioned lemon icebox cake

Register for the class here.

recipe for pasta with Sun Gold tomato sauce (via Bon Appetit) |

Spiced yellow cherry tomato pasta sauce.

I first spied this tomato sauce recipe, with its unexpected combination of dried spices and fresh herbs, in Bon Appetit last summer. I cut the recipe out of the magazine and pinned it to the bulletin board above the kitchen sink. It’s been there since—I could not wait to make this warm and spicy sauce recipe again this summer.

Good thing my Sun Sugar tomatoes are prolific right now: I love their sunny sweetness, and they’re so abundant that I’ve made several batches of this sauce already. (Tip for tomato gardeners: If you find split or blemished tomatoes, don’t compost them; stash them in a freezer bag and make sauce when the bag is full.)

Get yourself a quart of cherry tomatoes, some star anise and cloves, some fresh herbs. Make this sauce. In quantity. Store it in the freezer. Do it now, while sweet yellow cherry tomatoes are abundant.

spiced yellow cherry tomato pasta sauce recipe

(serves 4)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 sprigs basil
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig tarragon
1 star anise
1 whole clove
2 pints Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, halved (about 4 cups)
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 servings dried spaghetti (about 8 oz.)

In a medium skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat; add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it softens (lower the heat if needed; you don't want the onion to get brown and crispy). Add the garlic, herb sprigs and spices; cook and stir until you smell the richness of the herbs and spices, about 2 minutes. Add the Sun Gold tomatoes and vinegar; cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and become saucy, about 10 minutes. Remove the herb sprigs, clove and star anise and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, use tongs to transfer it to the skillet with the sauce, adding a bit of pasta cooking water to thin the sauce if needed. Cook the spaghetti and sauce together for a minute or two, stirring to coat the pasta well and infuse it with the flavor of the sauce.

simple potato salad with lemon vinaigrette recipe |

Lemony potato salad.

It seems so French to make a potato salad with vinaigrette dressing instead of mayonnaise … even more so to add a few crisp-tender green beans to the mix. I think of this as a spartan version of Salade Niçoise, without the tuna or egg (though you could add either, or both).

This French-style potato salad recipe is very bright-tasting, perfect for outdoor picnics or indoor dinners on the hottest summer nights. The potatoes and green beans cook in the same pot, so you won’t be standing over the stove for very long. If you’re like me, you have a glass jar of lemony vinaigrette in the fridge pretty much all the time, so the dressing is super easy. Toss in a few chopped fresh herbs from your garden or the farmers’ market, and voila!

 potato salad with green beans and lemon vinaigrette recipe

serves 4

1 pound small new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pound slender green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
easy lemon vinaigrette
handful of fresh herbs of your choice, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil; add the new potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add the green beans and continue cooking until the beans are crisp-tender and the potatoes are tender. Drain and transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl; while they're still warm, drizzle in lemon vinaigrette to coat. Let cool. Before serving, season to taste with salt and pepper, and gently stir in the chopped herbs. Add more dressing if needed.

buttery vanilla brownie recipe |

Buttery vanilla brownies.

On weekends at Findlay Market, you’ll find a new vendor this summer: The Cottage Bakery. Alice Dunn makes the most ridiculously good homemade cinnamon rolls in her home kitchen. Alice’s cinnamon rolls taste like a leisurely Sunday morning.

For The Findlay Market Cookbook, Alice shared this vanilla brownie recipe, one of her favorites. She says her friends often call them “butter brownies” because they melt in your mouth like a bit of sweet butter. (Get a sneak peek at a few other recipes from the cookbook.)

I tinkered with the glaze slightly when I made the recipe this weekend, because it’s so dang hot, and I feared that a buttery glaze would melt into a hot mess. I had about 3 tablespoons of white chocolate chips left from making the brownies, so I melted them, added about a tablespoon of cream and a splash of vanilla, then whisked in as much powdered sugar as I needed to make a glaze. (The glaze layer is thinner on the brownies in the photo than what Alice recommends, but it’s a little more stable on a hot day.) If warm weather isn’t an obstacle, then by all means go with the double recipe for the vanilla glaze, as Alice advises.

buttery vanilla brownie recipe

makes 16–20 brownies

For the brownies:
1 package (10 oz.) vanilla milk or white chocolate chips (1 2/3 cups)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°; grease and flour a 9-in. x 13-in. baking pan (or quarter sheet pan). 
In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, melt the vanilla chips and butter over low heat, stirring frequently, just until melted (the mixture may appear curdled). Remove from heat; cool. 
Stir in the flour, sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. 
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30–35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a wire rack; let the brownies cool.

For the vanilla glaze (can be doubled):
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 2 Tbsp. heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter until it’s smooth. 
Add the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Add the vanilla and heavy cream (add enough cream to create a spreadable glaze). 
Spread the glaze over the brownies.

peach bourbon crumb-top pie recipe |

Bourbon peach crumb-top pie.

Recently, I came into about 12 pounds of peaches. Do you know how many peaches that is? A lot.

And they were delicious. Right off the truck from a Georgia farm—via The Peach Truck, which makes 1 trip per summer to Cincinnati to deliver just-picked fruit in 25-pound boxes. A friend mentioned on Facebook that The Peach Truck was destined for a neighborhood near ours, and since the local peach crop this year is thin (thanks to an April freeze), I was sort of jonesin’ for some peaches. So I recruited someone to split a box with me.

I’ve been eating a peach every day for the past 10 days, and I can’t get enough. I put about 2 quarts of sliced peaches in the freezer yesterday. And I made a peach pie. With bourbon.

This recipe for bourbon-glazed peach pie with a crumble topping is beyond easy. It’s based on a Dutch apple pie recipe from the forthcoming “Findlay Market Cookbook“—with a no-roll pie crust that doubles as the crumb topping. You could make this pie recipe with any tree fruit: apples, nectarines, plums, peaches, even cherries. Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream!

bourbon peach crumb-top pie recipe

makes 8 servings

for the crust and topping:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup quick oats

In a large bowl, stir the ingredients together; reserve 1 cup of the mixture and set aside for the topping. 
Press the remaining mixture into a 9-inch pie plate.

for the filling:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups water
5 cups fresh, ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. bourbon

Preheat oven to 350°. 
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the water until smooth. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil; cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes, or until the mixture becomes very thick and translucent. Whisk in the bourbon. Stir in the peaches. 
Transfer the filling mixture to the pie plate; top with the reserved crumb mixture. 
Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until the crust and topping are deeply golden brown.

best summer vegetable recipes

Quick fixes for summer produce.

This growing season has been glorious for local produce, with gentle temperatures and enough rain to keep things plush. In my garden, the tomato plants are over 7 feet tall and abundantly productive (though some hot weather would certainly spark quicker ripening of the fruit), and I can’t harvest green beans fast enough.

In the middle of summer, we find ourselves in a very improvisational style of cooking and eating: whatever’s fresh, whatever needs to be used up quickly, whatever’s easy to make without much fussing or standing over a hot stove. [For a food writer who develops and shares recipes, this can be a challenge: It's hard to experiment with recipes when so much of my cooking right now is recipe-less.]

In the spirit of simple summer cooking, here are a few non-recipe recipes for using the season’s finest produce:

Toss 4 sliced fresh peaches (peeled, if you’d like) with 2 tablespoons of bourbon. Let sit while you’re having dinner. Serve over vanilla ice cream, salted caramel gelato or shortcakes. Leftovers are delicious for breakfast spooned over homemade granola or pancakes.

Slice perfectly ripe tomatoes; halve big handful of cherry tomatoes in assorted colors. Sprinkle liberally with Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Salt. Let sit for about 15 minutes before eating.

In a wok or heavy skillet, heat a couple of teaspoons of neutral oil (grapeseed or canola) over medium-high heat, until it shimmers. Toss in a quart of trimmed slender green beans and stir-fry until the beans are charred in spots and almost wilted. Season with kosher salt, stir in a spoonful of Asian chile-garlic paste to taste and a splash of soy sauce.

Cut the kernels off 4–6 ears of fresh sweet corn (I stand the ears up in a wooden salad bowl to catch the escaping kernels); use the back of the knife to scrape out all the milky juice. In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of sweet butter; add the corn and cook, stirring often, until the corn is completely soft and almost broken down. Add more butter if you want. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Mash a pint of red raspberries with a teaspoon of superfine sugar, until you have a chunky, jammy mixture. Stir into pancake batter, over ice cream or into yogurt (topped with homemade granola, of course).

mini blueberry streusel breads |

Mini blueberry streusel loaves.

This fun and easy blueberry quick bread recipe has its origins in two recent food writing projects: first, an assignment to develop quick bread recipes for a client, and second, a recipe for blueberry streusel coffee cake that Renee Schuler of Eat Well Catering & Feasts shared for “The Findlay Market Cookbook.”

It doesn’t always work out that recipes I tinker with come out right the first time, but these little mini quick breads were just so delicious and cute. (Yay!)

It’s the tail end of blueberry season around here, so I had a cupful to spare for these little treats. (The rest are bagged and waiting in my freezer, to be enjoyed on a bowl of granola or oatmeal in the dead of winter.) The base recipe (sans fruit) is super flexible: You could stir in a mashed-up overripe banana, or some diced ripe peaches or nuts and chocolate chips. Note that the ingredients below include a note on substituting lowfat or fat-free yogurt for half the shortening. You could also bake off the batter in muffin tins (decrease baking time by 5–10 minutes), or in a full-sized loaf pan (increase the baking time by 5–10 minutes). These mini blueberry streusel loaves are great for breakfast, for snacking, even as a before-bed nibble. (Not that I’d know about that …)

mini blueberry streusel quick breads recipe

makes 3 mini loaves

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening (or 1/4 cup shortening + 1/4 cup + 2 TB lowfat/fatfree yogurt)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries

for the streusel:
3 Tbsp. cold butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; spray three mini loaf pans with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), blend the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix well; add half the buttermilk and mix. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, the remaining buttermilk and, finally, the remaining dry ingredients, stirring well with each addition. Gently stir in the blueberries. In a small bowl, use your fingers to combine the streusel ingredients, creating peanut-sized clumps. Divide the batter among the 3 pans; scatter the streusel on top of the batter. Place the mini loaf pans on a rimmed baking sheet; bake for 45–50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (free of batter or moist crumbs) and the streusel is golden. Cool for 30 minutes, remove the loaves from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Summer tomato recipe roundup.

Ahhhhhhhhh … August. It’s tomato time, folks.

As a food writer and blogger, one of my biggest challenges is keeping room in my lineup for old favorites when I’m also scouting new recipes to share here. With tomato season in full swing, here are a few of my favorite tomato recipes that I’ll be revisiting again (and again … and again) this summer.