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Pile of Tomatoes
Ripe tomatoes are the taste of summer. Even when frozen and eaten in winter.
Chunyip Wong

Make Your Own Tomato Sauce!

This sauce is what you need to have an instant summer all year round

David Burtka is a theatre, television and film actor, a chef and best-selling cookbook author. He’s also married to the Wondercade Editor in Chief.

August 1, 2023 3:18 pm

Hi, it’s me again, David Burtka. Welcome to August. Or as I also like to call it, the very beginning of tomato season! If you’re growing these veggies (or fruits — technically, they’re both!) in a garden or planters, you’re absolutely drowning in them right now. Even if you’re a shopper and not a gardener, no doubt you’ve seen loads of gorgeous varieties all over your local farmers’ markets. Once you’ve had your fill of tomato salads, tomato salsa, tomato tarts, gazpacho and sliced tomatoes on sandwiches, it’s time to make tomato sauce. And freeze it.

Because while we’re still enjoying the warm days and nights of summer, and all of the fresh, delicious tastes of the season, winter is coming. I’m not talking about Game of Thrones’ army of the dead, but when it comes to bright, sunny flavors, winter is a bit of a dead zone. In those dark, cold months, nothing soothes the soul and triggers summertime vibes like eating something you made this time of year. It’s an instant burst of warmth and sunshine.

For my simple sauce you can use just about any variety of tomato. I like to use either heirlooms, San Marzanos or sungolds — those yummy, yellow cherry tomatoes, which are super sweet — in my sauce, but really, any type will work.

Play around with different tomatoes and ingredients to find your ideal recipe. I like to add a pinch of red chili flakes for just a hint of heat. And I love to throw a parmesan cheese rind into my sauce as it simmers…it adds a delicious nuttiness as it releases its fat and oils. Oregano would be a nice addition, too. It’s your sauce, so it’s your call!

Once you make your sauce and let it cool, pack it up in freezer-safe containers and you’re good to go! Don’t overthink it…I freeze mine in takeout containers, and write the date I made it on the lid with a Sharpie. Unless your freezer breaks and everything in it thaws, your sauce will keep for up to a year, taking you all the way through to next summer, when you can make it again!

And here’s another tip: If you’re pressed for time now — no judgment, there’s lots of sunshine and swimming to enjoy over these next few weeks — you can freeze your tomatoes, and cook with them months from now. Just put them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer, and thaw them out whenever you want them. You don’t even have to peel them; let them defrost and soften at room temperature for about an hour, and you can pop the skins right off! 

David Burtka's Simple Summer Tomato Sauce

Servings: About 6 pints

Copy Ingredients

  • 10 lbs. of tomatoes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
  • 2 basil stems and leaves 
  • 2 bay leaves, broken
  • Optional: 1 parmesan cheese rind and/or a pinch of red chili flakes

Copy Directions

    1. Measure out 10 pounds of tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half, and squeeze out all the seeds. 

    2. Take the de-seeded tomatoes, and use a box grater or cheese cutter to grate them into a bowl. If you’re using cherry tomatoes, skip this step — cutting them in half is all you need to do.

    3. Pour your olive oil, tomatoes, salt, tomato paste, garlic, big basil stems and bay leaves into a sauce pan. NOTE: To “break” the bay leaves, tear them in half — don’t chop them — so that the essential oils can escape into your sauce. I also like to toss in a parmesan rind for extra depth of flavor. Stir ingredients together, and cook over high heat. 

    4. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a low, slow simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for taste, adding more salt and/or chili pepper flakes as desired, and for thickness. For a thicker sauce, you can simmer it down for another 30 minutes, or an hour in total.

    5. Once you have your desired thickness, remove from heat, and remove the basil sprigs, bay leaves and parmesan rind (if you’ve used one). Serve immediately, or let cool before putting into a container for freezing.

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