Monday, September 16, 2013

Nonna Francesca's Homemade Sauce

Everyone has their own idea of what a good tomato sauce is. Whether it's homemade or comes out of a jar, a sauce can make or break a dish. Growing up, I had the privilege of knowing some generous cooks who are very talented in the kitchen. Since meeting my best friend, Alex, in kindergarten, I have had the pleasure of joining her and her family for numerous family meals. Each meal I have enjoyed with them in the last 18 years has been equally delicious and creatively presented, to say the least. Everything is always served on a beautiful platter, perfectly garnished, with pristine silverware. 

When Alex told me she would be making a homemade tomato sauce with her grandma, Nonna Francesca, I immediately thought, "This has to be documented!" After hours of hard labor, jars and more jars of a truly authentic sauce were created.

Here is the lovely conversation I had with my dear friend, Alex:

Describe the steps to making the sauce.

Clean all mason jars and tops well!
Place basil leaves inside each jar.
Have pots ready for cooking the tomatoes.
Have a bowl ready for when the tomatoes come out of the machine.


1. Wash the tomatoes.
2. Cut tomatoes into chunks.
3. Cook tomatoes on stove with salt for about 10 minutes or until soft.  Make sure to stir well.
4. Put tomatoes through electric puree sauce machine.  This may need to be done a couple of times until tomatoes reach a liquid consistency.
5. Pour puree into mason jars and tighten lid.
6. Fill pot about half way with water. Place jars inside the pot and cover. Place as many jars that can fit (Approximately 5). 
7. Boil the water and keep the cans in the water for an additional 20 minutes. Done! 
*Note: Steps 2-5 will be done throughout the day. Step 6 should be done once all the mason jars are filled and sealed.

How many hands did you have helping you?

In total there were 5 of us.  Early in the morning my mom and grandma began cleaning the tomatoes.  Then, the three of us began cutting the tomatoes into chunks.  Later in the morning, my uncle arrived.  He was in charge of the electric puree sauce machine.  My mom and I continued to cut and cook the tomatoes throughout the day. My grandma supervised of course and poured the sauce into the jars.  My dad tackled the sealing process.

How long did it take?

It took a very long time! If you want to make a lot of sauce, prepare to spend at least 12 hours in the kitchen. We started at 7 am and the last batch of jars were sealed around 11:30 pm. We used 4 large batches of tomatoes which is the most we have ever done.

Any words of advice from Nana?

It is important to lay out everything ahead of time before it becomes chaotic. Lay out exactly where you'll be cutting, where the machine will placed, and where the mason jars will be lined up. You will need a lot of tables! This is a nice way to spend time with family and an opportunity to make your own sauce! Just remember it takes a lot of work but it is worth it!

Thanks Alex! And to all, buon appetito!

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