Homemade Tomato Sauce

You asked, I delivered.

Well. No. You didn't. But like the mailman with the credit card offers and junk mail, I'm bringing it to you anyway (on that note though is there a way we can opt out of stuff like that? That poor guy takes a lot of extra steps to bring things we throw out).

Homemade tomato sauce! It's quick, it's easy, and of course it's gluten free.

Now there are two ways we can go about this: the easy way or the slightly less easy way.
The former involves canned tomatoes, while the latter involves taking fresh tomatoes, boiling them to peel the skin off, deseeding them *but saving the seeds and extra goop in case they're necessary in a bit*, and then you're back to where the former was. The less easy way is delicious in the summer with fresh tomatoes and a blast to play around with if you're tactile (read: very messy and very odd texture), but if it's winter or you're just in a rush you'll really just stick to the canned version, which I'll go off of here. Sorry overachievers.

My inspiration came from stalking the Instagram lives of NYC chefs and restaurants - mostly Italian restaurants. Those clean close-ups of fresh pasta or pizza: Come. On. They eventually led me to Scott Conant and his  godly homemade marinara served at Scarpetta. The original article I read was from Serious Eats, and as soon as I finished reading I decided to make it.

You should understand first: we are a very Irish family. Sauce from a jar is the norm, except for high school pasta dinners at teammates' homes before a big meet (swimming!). I was always in awe when other families whipped out these seemingly complex Italian dinners for us with hunks of garlic bread (ugh I know I'm sorry my Celiac friends), endless plates of pasta and homemade marinara, chicken parm, and meatballs. Now I'm distracted.

Long story short, deciding to make a sauce from scratch was a big deal, but it immediately paid off. This is a sweet sauce that relies on real tomatoes, essence of basil and garlic that were warmed in oil added at the very end, and the sneaky trick I don't typically use but could really love to - butter. If you're looking for a decadent (weird word but *one hundred percent emoji* true here) but easy addition to amp up that gluten-free Barilla penne you're heating up right now, look no further. As a bonus, I think picky kids are more likely to eat this since all they see is the red sauce - the basil is removed and there aren't any mushrooms/onions/weird stuff (sauce purist rant over).

I have riffed off this recipe for years, making it this lazier version, but I would highly recommend reading through the original recipe as well.

Serves:  6-8

Total Time: 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 cans San Marzano/equivalent tomatoes (I use crushed or whole - depends on if you mind the aseeds really!), or as many fresh tomatoes as you can gather/boil/peel/deseed 
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 6 basil leaves (or 1 little nugget if you use frozen packs of basil, it'll just be harder to pick out the big pieces later)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly pressed with the side of a knife but still whole
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, whatever you have (we always have salted YES)

Instructions

  1. Put a large pot on medium on your stove, once it's warmed up add in your tomatoes! Bring to a boil then return to a simmer. Add salt, some red and black pepper and sugar (to bring out the natural sweetness!) and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes. During this time you get to work on the fun part - breaking down the tomatoes! The original recipe's recommendation for a potato masher is spot on. There are few things in the world as fun as mashing down tomatoes after a long day (or even in the middle of a Saturday). Enjoy!
  2. In a smaller pot, heat olive oil over medium-low. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes (or what you can manage) with the basil and garlic. Now just let that baby go. Close any doors and open windows if possible if you don't want that garlic stankin' up your house for a week. Take olive oil mixture off burner once garlic is slightly browned, and remove everything from the oil (threw a strainer or just with a spoon if you're a B0$$).
  3. Gently and carefully (seriously this stuff will explode on you otherwise), add olive oil to tomatoes. and stir. I bring this up to a nice warm temperature and then serve with pasta.
  4. Now, if you're going for extra credit and willing to clean up an extra pan, pour some of your sauce into a large pan on medium. Add in your butter, a spoonful of pasta water and a bit more sauce and stir to incorporate, then throw in your pasta and heat everything up together. 

Serve with inappropriate amounts of cheese, red pepper flakes, and lots and lots of milk (seriously though if it's not 2% or whole you're drinking water - don't pay for gallons of water).

If you've ever eaten at Scarpetta I'd love to hear about your experience, especially if you tried making the sauce after!

Fully reduced with oil added!

Fully reduced with oil added!

Pasta and Meatballs

There are few things as comforting as pasta and meatballs. When my dad was recently diagnosed with Celiac I think the first type of food our family thought we'd have to cut out was Italian. Now, we're big meat and potatoes Irish people, but don't come between us and our carbs - particularly when they involve sauce ("gravy" in some places according to Guy Fieri but I'm sorry guys that grosses me out).

What else do you think of when someone mentions spag(h)ett-i and meatballs?

Luckily though, Barilla makes some solid g-free pasta - it tastes like normal pasta to me so I would HIGHLY recommend. There's plenty of g-free jarred tomato sauce as well (although I'm a big fan of my simple sauce to come soon), so this family fave is still on rotation.

Too hungry to take the picture with the penne in the box!

Too hungry to take the picture with the penne in the box!

My dad actually did the honors with these bad boys, adapting a Betty Crocker recipe as follows:

Feeds: 5

Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs (we used 4C, below)
  • 1/4 cup milk (we use whole or 2% - anything else is water)
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 egg
  • Jarred (or Kerry's special) gluten free pasta sauce
  • 1 box/12 oz gluten free pasta (we use Barilla gluten free penne)
  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil; spray with cooking spray. Bring pot of water to boil and cook according to directions.
  2. In large bowl, mix all ingredients. Shape mixture into about 16 meatballs. Place 1 inch apart in pan. Heat sauce (in microwave if you hate dishes or in a pot if you're civilized - no judgement here).
  3. Bake uncovered 18 to 22 minutes or until no longer pink in center.

Serve with loads of cheese and glasses of (again either 2% or whole there is no debate) milk!