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Joe’s Tomato Sauce

May 27, 2014


The grandgirls came to visit during spring break this year, and our “feast” (we always have a feast) was stuffed shells with Joe’s Sauce.

Joe’s Tomato Sauce

2 6 oz. cans tomato paste

5 pounds canned whole tomatoes, packed in juice

6 Tbsp. olive oil

5 rounded Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

ground black pepper

6-7 cloves of garlic, peeled, each cut lengthwise into 5-6 pieces

1 Tbsp dried basil

(1/3 cup fresh basil coarsely chopped)

9 whole cloves

4 shakes ground cinnamon

Put the tomato paste into a large, heavy pot. Drain the juice from the canned tomatoes into the pot and mix it smoothly with the paste, adding it slowly at first. Add the tomatoes, which you have broken up (see notes below). Mix thoroughly and add all the other ingredients, mixing well. (Crush the dried basil by rubbing it between the palms of your hands as you hold them over the pot.) Bring the sauce to a slow boil, about 30 minutes, cover and simmer for two hours. Stir it often as it simmers and be careful not to let the sauce burn on the bottom. (I use a baffle on the lowest gas flame I can manage.) Add some boiling water if the sauce seems too thick. Correct the salt and pepper.



tomato sauceSugar? Cinnamon? Cloves? Yes indeed! This has been our basic house sauce for some forty years. The kids grew up on it, and when I visit them, they often want me to make a double batch before I leave. This recipe is adapted from one we received from Anne Lojacono, a friend from my time in the Air Force in Colorado Springs in the late 1960s. I think that this was her husband’s mother’s recipe. This sauce will also be one of my claims to immortality. Bob and Helen Hays, old Austin friends, now of La Grange, tell me that they occasionally ask each other, “Is there any Liro Sauce in the freezer?”

I like to find big chunks of tomatoes in the sauce, so I buy “whole” canned tomatoes packed in juice, not “diced”. Imported Roma or plum tomatoes are perfect; Hunt’s or Del Monte are just fine. I use various methods to break up the tomatoes, including sticking scissors into the opened can and taking several strokes. Most often I simply push a knife through them a few times as I hold them over the pot in the palm of my hand. The stems I cut away and discard.

It’s as much work to make ten pounds as five. These proportions, though, are perfect for five pounds of tomatoes. When you double the recipe, be careful with the sugar and spices — a little less might be in order. For the first time, try five pounds.

When you make ten pounds, freeze the extra. I use plastic freezer bags. Label the bags, stick them in saucepans or small metal bowls, fill each with 6-8 cups of sauce, place them in the freezer overnight. Next day, take the bags out of the saucepans, squeeze the air out and seal them.

Over the years I have tinkered very little with this recipe. I will add the fresh basil (in addition to the dried) if I have some in the garden right then. Sometimes I have added fennel seeds, just a hint, about 1/4 – 1/2 tsp for the pot, whether five or ten pounds. I don’t want the fennel to compete with the cinnamon and cloves. I have tried using a couple inches of cinnamon sticks, but prefer the way ground cinnamon flavors the sauce.




From → Food

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