Friday, February 04, 2011

Tomato Sauce - Fresh From The Garden

Every year when tomato season comes round again, I tell myself it’s time to learn the art of canning. Now we’re surrounded by trays of tomatoes, taking over the shelves where my pots and pans used to be stored and ripening too fast, and I still haven’t got around to it. It’s something about having to go out and buy canning jars seals and whatnot, that makes it seem like a huge undertaking. Or maybe it’s that simmering the filled jars in water. Anyway I’m still resorting to the freezer when it comes to preserving our tomato crop and the freezer is crammed to the gills.

When my mother was here we picked, peeled, chopped and froze kilos of tomatoes. They sit in a heap in the freezer in bags of the equivalent size to a tin of tomatoes, so that I won’t have to buy a tin for months. I made a huge batch of tomato sauce for pizza and froze it. A couple of double batches of Jane-Anne’s Roast Tomato and Onion soup are crammed in next to containers of stock, ready for slightly cooler weather. And still the tomatoes are ripening ready to harvest.

But there’s something so nice about having fresh ripe tomatoes with flavour always on hand for pasta sauce or salads. Our son may not agree when it’s pasta with tomato sauce again for supper, but the fresh tomatoes with fresh herbs from the garden are a hundred times better than any other tomato sauce in the world.

I’ve picked up a great tip from Marcella Hazan for a tomato sauce with tuna - start off the sauce with several tablespoons of chopped parsley fried in olive oil with a little garlic. It gives a wonderful depth of flavour to the sauce, mellowing it slightly and anchoring that fresh tomato sprightliness. Then you can throw in other fresh herbs to cook with the tomato and try different combinations to ring the changes. A little lemon thyme, or oregano, a sage leaf or a sprig of rosemary all give a slightly end result. Or a scattering of torn basil leaves thrown in at the very end.

Recipe For Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce with Herbs and Tuna

About eight ripe tomatoes peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove of garlic peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley finely chopped
A few sprigs of mixed fresh herbs – oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary according to your whim
170g / 6oz can tuna drained
500g / 1lb pasta

Gently fry the chopped garlic in the olive oil until just starting to colour.
Add the chopped parsley and cook for about a minute stirring now and then.
Add the chopped tomatoes with the other  fresh herbs and a seasoning of salt and pepper.
Bring to a steady simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the tomatoes have reached a sauce like consistency.
Meanwhile cook the pasta to be ready at the same time as the sauce.
At the very end of the sauce cooking time add the tuna and stir it into the tomato sauce, giving it just enough time to warm through, but not letting it cook for any length of time.
Immediately the pasta has drained toss it with the sauce and serve. No need for parmesan with a tuna sauce, but you could sprinkle it with some torn basil leaves for extra flavour.

I sometimes have a little extra tomato and tuna sauce left over. It makes a delicious spread for bread at lunch time and Youngest loves it in her school sandwiches too.


  1. I'm thanking my lucky stars that my Little Girl has decided that she likes tuna. She also likes pasta, but not that into tomatoes. Maybe I'll have to give this a try. Except, I'm not getting any tomatoes from the garden, because she picks them as soon as the little green fruit appear. At least she eats them.

  2. I love tuna salad sandwiches, and I love fresh tomato sauce on pasta. Never considered putting the two together, though. Interesting!

  3. I'd almost forgotten about this lovely sauce! You are so lucky to have lovely tomatoes to go with. Although we try, we aren't terribly good at growing them so have to resort to the kindness of others, purchase, or buy San Marzano tomatoes.

  4. Adele, I guess eating green tomatoes is better than none at all! My son used to eat everything as a baby then struck things off the list one by one - he still won't eat tuna or tomatoes... good luck with your little girl!

    Marcheline, the combination works surprisingly well and having the leftovers is a real bonus, as Youngest doesn't like boring old cheese sandwiches, which are her brother's staple school diet.

    Lael, thanks for visiting. I do realise how lucky we are, especially now the South African shops seem to have gone the way of the UK and only sell tasteless tomatoes grown in tunnels which are the same all year round - when we first got here ten years ago they used to be more seasonal, like in Italy, and tasted real.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!