How to make vegetarian tomato sauce from scratch?
September 28, 2007 7:34 AM   Subscribe

I have several lbs of ripe plum tomatoes, and I'm looking for your most delicious recipes for (vegetarian) tomato pasta sauce.

I am interested both in recipes for a basic tomato sauce and for variations including meat substitutes (tofu, tempeh, veggie ground round, etc) and other vegetables. Bonus for recipes including mushrooms!
posted by Ladysin to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the tomatoes in half and remove seeds. Place them cut-side up on a half-sheet baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons each of chopped parsley, chopped oregano, and chopped basil, along with some finely minced shallots (2-3), salt and pepper.

Roast for 2-3 hours. Check after about 90 minutes to make sure that the tomatoes aren't burning. A little browning is okay.

Remove tomatoes from oven, cool for a few minutes, then grind them through a food mill. You could also process them with an immersion blender if you don't have a food mill, but the mill does a better job of getting rid of the skins and any remaining seeds.

The sauce is usable as-is, or you can finish it off in a saucepan by adding half a cup of white wine, 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic, or any other sauce additions you want. Simmer the enhanced sauce for 20-30 minutes and you're all set.
posted by briank at 7:53 AM on September 28, 2007 [11 favorites]

Do exactly as briank says.

Loading up a perfectly lovely tomato sauce with meat is a sin. A sin, I tell you!
posted by contessa at 8:00 AM on September 28, 2007

Chop the tomatoes, some fresh basil, a clove or two of garlic and if you like some vegetables, heat them in a large skillet with some olive just until they start to warm. Add freshly boiled and drained pasta, such as bows, and stir. Add, salt, pepper and grating cheese to your taste. This way the tomatoes retain all of their fresh flavor. A cooked sauce is great too, but it changes the flavor.
posted by caddis at 8:07 AM on September 28, 2007 [4 favorites]

I think I would go with briank's recipe, which looks and sounds fabulous. I usually start my sauce with canned tomato products, because I don't have a garden.

Other things you can add: finely diced onion, chopped green pepper, and/or sliced mushrooms, sauteed until just brown on the edges in olive oil; fresh or canned sliced black olives; a dash of cayenne.

I am not big on fake meat. Most of it has a vaguely wrong flavor and texture. Frankly, I can't imagine tofu floating in my spaghetti sauce, but I never have successfully used tofu anyplace outside a curry. That being said, you can make a decent enough meatball using this recipe, of course tweaking the spices and leaving out the soy sauce (word of advice, go ahead and put in the oatmeal before turning on the food processor). Be warned that they get a little flat on the bottom if you try to bake them.
posted by ilsa at 8:07 AM on September 28, 2007

Simple, but delicious, tomato sauce, which can easily be modified with any extra ingredients that appeal to you-

1) Remove the tomato skins. (The easiest way to remove the skin without a food mill is to lightly score it with a knife, put it in boiling water for approximately 15-20 seconds, and the put it in a bowl of cold water. The skin should peel right off.

2) Remove the stem area/seeds. (to remove the seeds, you can simply squeeze the seeds and excess liquid out into a bowl.

3) Saute a large onion and a sizeable amount of garlic (I usually use about 10 cloves for a few pounds of tomatoes, but use what you think you might like.)

4) Add the tomatoes and reduce heat to medium.

5) Add salt, pepper, oregano (fresh preferred/dry ok), basil (again, fresh preferred/dry ok) to taste. (probably about a tsp each of salt/pepper, tbsp of basil, 1.5 tsp of oregano, but your sauce may vary.)

6) Add about 3 tbsp of brown sugar to offset the acidity of the tomatoes somewhat.

7) Allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, and use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes as needed.

8) If the sauce is too thin, you can "cheat" and add some tomato paste.

9) After the tomatoes are mostly broken up, add bay leaves (I use about 5-6), and allow to simmer on low heat for a couple of hours, stirring occassionally.
posted by JMOZ at 8:13 AM on September 28, 2007

Blanch all the cloves from a garlic bulb in boiling water for maybe ten minutes (you want the cloves not too hard and not too soft), or just omit garlic if you prefer.

Peel the toms (easy by hand, after a minute in boiling water).

Add a handful of basil leaves.

Heat tomatoes, basil and garlic, plus salt and a little pepper, all together briefly to a boil - just a few minutes - the result is a deliciously fresh sauce.

We made this last week. Yum.
posted by anadem at 8:20 AM on September 28, 2007

This tomatoes confit recipe sounds absolutely delicious.
posted by pmbuko at 8:36 AM on September 28, 2007

I have to recommend occhiblu's broccoli arrabiata. Great as a side dish but would go really well with pasta too. Instead of canned tomatoes, blanche fresh ones by plunging them into boiling water for a few seconds, then peel, chop and use them in this recipe.
posted by essexjan at 8:55 AM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

The roasted tomato sauce briank suggests would be great. I'd start with something similar to tomato confit for the sauce - halve the tomatoes lengthwise and layer them in a baking dish, add some garlic, fresh oregano, basil, and parsley and cover with olive oil. Cook at 225*F until they're soft but not dried out. Drain, run them through a food mill and set the puree aside. Sautee some onion in the tomato oil, add the tomato puree, some heat (espelette, aleppo pepper, chili flakes, whatever you've got), along with some salt and pepper and simmer until you've got the texture you want.
posted by foodgeek at 9:04 AM on September 28, 2007

caddis's recipe is another one of my favorite ways to make tomato sauce.
posted by briank at 12:31 PM on September 28, 2007

My bro just came across this one recently to use up some of the many slightly soft ones grown at home this year (bad summer for them)...

Half or quarter tomatoes, tear some mozzarella in with them, add finely chopped garlic, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic, season and leave covered for an hour or two to conglomerate.
Then cook up some pasta and mix in with the tomatoes.

Dead easy and you can't go wrong!
posted by opsin at 12:51 PM on September 28, 2007

Mmmm roughly chop an onion and a few cloves of garlic, sautee in olive oil until soft, add salt and pepper then add tomatoes and a healthy amount (glass at least) of good red wine and simmer away for 10 mins, add a tablespoon of mascarpone cheese, and a handful of chopped basil, mix and keep on the heat 'til it bubbles again, then pour over al dente penne or similar. Eat with good crusty warm bread and rest of bottle of wine until stomach is distended/ smile is sloppy.
posted by merocet at 1:07 PM on September 28, 2007

Get a jar of olives in oil sauce and simmer that with the tomatoes. There are much more complicated recipes, but that's the most delicious one I've ever had.
posted by salvia at 4:15 PM on September 28, 2007

Recipes mentioned so far sound great, with one correction: herbs (i.e. green, leafy things) should always be added toward the end of cooking, shortly before being served. Cooking or storing for long periods will kill most of the flavour that herbs provide. The opposite is true of spices (i.e. seed pods), whose effect are enhanced by heat and are not dampened by storage.
posted by randomstriker at 10:35 PM on September 28, 2007

randomstriker: It depends what you're going for - long cooked fresh herbs certainly contribute flavor, it's just very different from that bright fresh taste you get from adding them at the last minute.
posted by foodgeek at 10:40 PM on September 28, 2007

Tofu is delicious in tomato sauces! Firm or Extra firm is best, crumble it into small bits and simmer from the get go. The BEST is to take extra firm tofu, then freeze and dethaw. It turns into a wondrous meaty (but in a good way) sponge that absorbs flavors like nobody's business. Cook it in the sauce until it has completely absorbed all yummy and wonderful tomato flavors.

As for tempeh -- step away from the tempeh, do not put it anywhere near the tomatoes. I just can't imagine that combination working. That said, tempeh is delicious simmered in soy sauce with some ginger and garlic. Totally unrelated to your tomatoes, but the only way to eat tempeh, really.

Another delicious thing to do with tomatoes, if they are flavorful (flavorsome?) and sweet is to make a raw sauce. Basically, cut into small pieces, add a splash of good extra virgin olive oil, salt to taste, and one raw crushed garlic clove (or again, to taste). Pour it over piping-hot pasta, which will give it just the slightest amount of cooking to take the edge off of it. Amazingly wonderful.

Currently eats meat, but self-identifies as a vegetarian.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:52 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, another sauce I just remembered.

Nobody here has mentioned puttanesca. This is my favorite way to make it:

Saute onions (lots) in olive oil in a large pot until really soft.
Add garlic to taste
Add the tomatoes, chopped

After the tomatoes have cooked down for a while add olives, smashed with pits removed and a few Peperoncini (the hot green pickled peppers)

If you really like pickly flavors like I do you can add a splash or two of the brine the peppers are stored in.

Pour the sauce of angel hair pasta.

Oh m goodness. Off to make some pasta.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:57 PM on September 29, 2007

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