I enjoy tomato sauce almost as much as I love the pasta that typically accompanies it. Luckily, tomatoes are chock-full of health-supportive vitamin A. Vitamin A, an antioxidant, defends healthy cells against age-accelerating free radical damage. Vitamin A also improves the health of eyes and skin. So eat this minimal-ingredient, all-natural tomato sauce with the peace of mind that you are doing your body good!
I love this recipe because it doesn’t need much attention after preparation. Once the tomatoes are stuffed with garlic and basil and drizzled with olive oil, the work is done. Place in the oven and spend its cooking time taking care of whatever chores you have or work your “to do” list. After a couple of hours, your sauce is ready to eat!
Slow Cook Chunky Tomato Sauce
3 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, washed and cored (about 8 medium tomatoes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
8 basil leaves
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Fit tomatoes tightly, core side up, in a 2-quart pan (I prefer a glass Pyrex pan). The tomatoes should be pressed up against each other.
- Pour olive oil over the tomatoes, and place one basil leaf and one garlic clove in the center of each tomato. Sprinkle with salt.
- Cook for 2 hours or until the tomatoes burst – the skin breaks open. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- As soon as the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, slide the skin off with your hands, and break the tomatoes up into coarse pieces with a knife. Transfer sauce to a pot. Salt to taste.
- Cook sauce on the stovetop for 5 minutes.
- Slow-Cook Smooth Tomato Sauce. Set a food mill fitted with the disk with the largest holes over a pot. Transfer the tomatoes with their juices to the mill and puree. Taste for salt.
- Spicy Tomato Sauce. Once transferred to the stovetop, add 1 teaspoon (or more depending on desired level of spice) of red pepper flakes.
- Tomato Ricotta Sauce. Toss the cooked sauce with 1 pound cooked pasta. Add 1/2 cup of part-skim ricotta and toss again.
As one of the most widely purchased crops, fresh tomatoes are readily available at most supermarkets and food stores year round. That said, the peak season for tomatoes is normally June to September. The best-tasting raw tomatoes are grown locally within their peak season; however, cooking tomatoes enhances their flavor, so even out-of-season tomatoes are worth buying for your sauce.
Lycopene, a naturally occurring chemical that gives fruits and vegetables their red color, is thought to help fight the risk of lung, stomach, prostate, and breast cancer. Considering the high levels of lycopene in tomatoes – thus their vibrant red color – this fruit is a particularly strong cancer-fighting food. Additionally, because some studies suggest that lycopene also reduces cholesterol levels by increasing blood vessel flexibility, tomatoes are also recommended to fight high cholesterol.
The quality of a tomato can be assessed by its appearance, feel, and smell. Always choose tomatoes that have a bright skin that is free of bruises or blemishes. Give the tomato a gentle squeeze to assess its firmness. A good tomato doesn’t yield to pressure, but it doesn’t feel too hard, either. Finally, use your sense of smell. Fresh, sun-ripened tomatoes emit a strong sweet scent.
Steer clear of tomatoes that feel unnaturally soft or have wrinkled skin. Avoid buying tomatoes that are packed in plastic wrap, as it is difficult to check whether they’re genuinely fresh or not.