Baked Tomato Sauce

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This baked tomato sauce is great on pizza, pasta or in lasagna as well as any other dish where you desire a smooth thick sauce. It is real good for things like Italian sausage sandwiches because it is thick enough that it doesn't immediately turn the bread to mush.

For those of you that watch Alton Brown's Good Eats program on The Food Network, you will no doubt recognize this as a modified version of his recipe. I use a mix of fresh heirloom tomatoes from the garden rather than store bought roma tomatoes, for a much richer taste. If you don't have your own garden, I highly recommend finding your local farmer's market or farm stand where you can find a better variety of vine ripened fruit rather than the stuff in the stores that was shipped green and gassed to get its color.

On the show they seed the tomatoes before baking, but in my opinion the goo around the seeds is where some of the best flavor is, and contrary to what they say, leaving the seeds in during baking does not lead to bitterness. While I grow my own fresh herbs, I find that quality dry herbs actually work better for this sauce, and you can add fresh herbs when you are preparing your final dish. My final change to the original recipe is that I don't add wine before reducing. I didn't notice the improvement in the tomato flavor that AB claims, I just noticed an alcohol flavor.

I also <GASP!> can my sauce, even though it is not an FDA approved recipe. If you do can it, you do it at your own risk. I take quite a few precautions, including adding lemon juice and pressure canning instead of water bath canning, so I don't feel too concerned. I haven't gotten sick from it yet, but you have to make your own choice about whether it is worth the "risk".

This recipe is on a "per roasting pan" basis, but I rarely make only one pan's worth. I try to make at least 4 pans at a time so I'm not running the oven and stove in the summer for just a few pints of sauce.

Preparation Time:
About 3 1/2 hours
Tools
  • cutting board and sharp knife
  • a couple of roasting pans or non-stick cake pans
  • sauce maker or food mill
  • sauce pan
For canning
  • pressure canner
  • pint mason jars and lids
  • ladle
  • wide mouth funnel

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes, halved. Enough to fill a roasting pan one layer deep
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (from a jar is fine for this)

For Canning

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice per pint jar
Cooking Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees
  2. Place the tomato halves into your pan, cut side up.
  3. Sprinkle the salt over the tomatoes. This helps start drawing out the liquid.
  4. After a few minutes, sprinkle the pepper over the tomatoes, or just grind it directly onto them till it looks like enough.
  5. Mix the Italian herbs into the oil (helps keep them from burning) and drizzle it over the tomatoes.
  6. Top with the chopped onions and garlic and then toss it in the oven.
  7. Cook at 325 for one hour. Check how they are doing, and reduce heat to 300 if it seems like things are starting to overcook already. This is also the time to put in any pans of cherry tomatoes that you may have. Cook for an additional hour
  8. Finish them off by turning it up to 400 for another 30 minutes.
  9. Process through your sauce maker. I have a cheap one, so I usually put my discards through a second time to get some extra sauce out of it.
  10. Cook it in a sauce pan until it reaches your desired thickness.

For canning
For canning, I put the sauce in pint jars and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar. I then pressure can them at 11 PSI for 10 minutes.

Source:
Alton Brown's Good Eats show on the Food Network.
Notes
Disclaimer: This recipe has not had any official testing when canning. Tomatoes are borderline high acid foods, and I add the lemon juice to raise their acid level. I also pressure can as an additional precaution. I haven't gotten sick from it yet, but you play at your own risk.

You should never use any sauce from a can where the lid has popped back up, and you should boil it for a few minutes before using. This cooking time is also a good time to add fresh herbs and garlic to liven it up a bit.

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Most people are concerned

Most people are concerned with lowering the high acidity of tomatoes by removing the skin and avoiding canned tomatoes packed with citric acid. Putting more acidity (via lemon juice) in the sauce can only detract from the balanced taste of properly made sauces, and is one reason canned tomato sauces never taste as good as fresh ones. If you must add lemon juice, by all means include a little honey to balance the acidity. P.S.: If you're getting an alcohol taste from the marinara/red wine, you're not cooking it in early enough.

To each his (or her) own.

To each his (or her) own. Somehow I doubt that you speak for "most people", though you certainly are allowed to speak for yourself.

Some people do have trouble with high-acid foods, but the truth is that most people that think they have acid problems are really having problems with not enough acid in their stomachs. For those that do have troubles with stomach acid, according to a Stanford study, the acidity of the food has virtually no impact on the acidity in your stomach, the problem has to do with eating too much at one sitting.

While canning you want acidity to keep from getting botulism. Tomatoes are a borderline acid food, so if you are going to water bath or steam can them, you NEED to do something to lower the PH, especially when you are making the sauce with a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes. I pressure can, so I don't really have to add the acid, Like I said, I'm taking extra precautions.

The thing is, I don't notice the lemon juice flavor in the canned sauce, and I find the canned sauce to be as tasty as the fresh version of this sauce. Have you tried it with this recipe? I cannot comment on your recipes, but with this one, I find that there is no noticeable difference in flavor. But if you want a sweeter flavor I would suggest going with brown rice vinegar rather than adding honey, that way you are adding a rather sweet acid. Though there really isn't any need to add sweetness, as carmelizing your tomatoes in the oven adds a lot of sweetness as it is.

As for the alcohol taste, I tried simmering a batch for an hour and I could still taste it. Since I rarely drink anymore, I might be more sensitive to the taste, but I make this sauce for me, so I simply avoid using the alcohol. If you like that flavor, go ahead and add it.

By the way, don't mistake this for a marinara, there aren't any anchovies in it. It's a simple tomato sauce.