The first cherry and grape tomatoes in our vegetable garden are usually eaten IN the garden with a salt shaker in hand, and the first slicers are the basis for countless BLTs, Caprese Salad and gazpacho. Now, at the end of summer, the vines are loaded with ripe Romas, San Marzanos and other sauce tomatoes, which must be harvested every few days.
I make marinara almost every weekend for at least a month, preserving the bright summer flavors that we will enjoy throughout winter. The process begins with about 15 pounds of fresh tomatoes, washed, halved and run through one of my favorite Italian kitchen gadgets, the spremmi pomodoro.
This macchina miracolosa separates the skin and the seeds quickly and efficiently. Nothing goes to waste because the hens love the discarded skins and seeds. From 15 pounds of tomatoes I usually get a gallon of sauce for marinara.
To the sauce add roughly ½ cup of olive oil and one head of garlic, peeled and diced finely. Uncovered, bring the pot to a boil and then lower the heat to a high simmer to reduce the sauce to about half.
Simmer for 3 to 4 hours until the sauce has thickened. Add ¼ cup of Italian Seasoning, 2 bay leaves and ¼ cup dried basil and continue cooking on low heat for about half an hour.
When the marinara has cooled I pack it in ZipLock containers, mark and date them, and put them in the freezer. This may seem like a lot of effort, but the result is so incredibly different from any bottled marinara and makes an excellent base for the classic Sicilian Sunday Gravy.