My boyfriend recently observed that Italians growing tomatoes is probably the equivalent of Brits growing their own potatoes. He came to this conclusion whilst my uncle was showing him around his vegetable patch in Cambridge which, like most British veg gardens, is largely dominated by potatoes and other root vegetables. "The thing is, with potatoes you can really taste the difference if they're home grown." said my uncle "With things like tomatoes, they really don't taste much different to the ones you can buy in the supermarket." I see that Michele tries to hide a smirk at this remark. He thinks it's hilarious how obsessed us Brits are with our potatoes and how many different varieties you can find in the supermarket, as opposed to Italy, where the only choice seems to be between big potatoes....or small potatoes...! But however obsessed we may be with potatoes, when it comes to tomatoes, Italians are ten times worse! And I have to say after tasting home grown, I'm not sure I can ever go back to buying the tough, pallid and scarily uniform product that in the UK we call a salad tomato.
In our garden we grow pomodori marmande which originate from France but are also very popular in northern Italy and can be easily identified by their ribbed exterior. They're absolutely great for using in salads, capresi, bruschette etc. because they're mainly flesh and hardly any seeds or water so you get a lot of tomato for your money and the texture is very meaty and sweet. As with most things in our garden, we have a bit of a tomato surplus at the moment so Anna has been making pan after pan of her special tomato sauce to put into jars for the winter. Here is her recipe:
Anna's Sugo di Pomodoro Fresco al Basilico
1kg large tomatoes (the sweeter the tomatoes, the better the sauce!)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A handful of basil
- Wash the tomatoes, cut them in half from top to bottom and remove the green part of the core.
- Take a bowl and squeeze the tomato halves to remove any seeds and excess water.
- Place the now seed-free tomatoes into a large pan and leave to soften on a low heat for about 15 minutes.
- When the tomatoes are soft, remove from the heat and pass the tomatoes through a food mill to remove the skins and create a smooth sauce. If you don't have a food mill you could also try to use a sieve but it may take a while!
- Once passed through the food mill the sauce can then be return to the heat to gently cook for a further 15 minutes
- Finally, season the sauce adding the salt, olive oil and torn basil. If your sauce is very sharp, you can also add a pinch of sugar. Stir thoroughly and remove the sauce from the heat.
Note: Sugo di pomodoro fresco is the most pure form of tomato sauce. You can then use this sauce to make variations by adding mince and diced vegetables to make a ragu', chilli and garlic to make pasta all'arrabiata or aubergine, garlic and mozzarella to make pasta alla norma. I personally love it on its own with spaghetti and a few shavings of Cacioricotta on top.