Raffaele’s Cheerful Cherry Tomato Sauce

“Sa cuchina minore no timet su fuste”

Sardinian saying meaning ‘simple cuisine makes the home great’

A friend came round to us in Sardinia with a sack of gorgeous cherry tomatoes, bursting with juice and flavour – as you bit into them you had to suck to catch the spurting juice.

They were wonderful, but could I manage the volume? It reminded me of when a previous owner of the house we had just bought offered to sell us the cow with it. There were just three of us then – I had a husband who drank his coffee black, and a small baby with a milk allergy. ‘How much milk does she produce each day’, I asked. Eight gallons was the answer…

So what to do with a glut of tomatoes? Obviously the answer had to somehow involve the freezer. And the other obvious answer was some kind of sauce. What makes this one good is the marsala and the balsamic vinegar.

There was one thing it didn’t involve. My beloved looked with concern at the sack and said he was a bit worried about all the peeling…. the thought of it!

Cherry tomatoes are denser – less water content – so they are ideal for making a sauce and this is now my default recipe for a fresh tomato sauce. If I’m using tinned tomatoes I do this.

On unfreezing you can either use this as a sauce – for example for pasta, but for all kinds of other things too; or you can blend, add a bit more marsala and/or some cream and make it into a soup. If you have three or four left over you could chop them simply and serve them, as they do at the St Remy restaurant in Cagliari, with a couple of pieces of perfectly cooked turbot.

cherry tomato recipe
About five kilos of cherry tomatoes

Per kilo of tomatoes (Raffaele had given us about 5 kilos) you will need:

  • 1 onion – peeled and chopped
  • 1 tbsp marsala
  • 1 tbsp thick, good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
  • Lots of grinds of Indonesian long pepper
  • Several leaves of basil
  • Olive oil for frying
    1. Put the onion into a big saucepan and begin to melt it over a gentle heat.
    2. Meanwhile take the stalks off the tomatoes and cut them in half using a serrated tomato knife. About halfway through cutting the tomatoes add the garlic to the onions, stir, and continue cutting. Don’t even think of peeling them!
    3. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan, and the pepper, vinegar and marsala.
    4. Cover the pan and simmer for a couple of hours on a very low heat.
    5. Tear the basil and mix in.
    6. It’ll still be liquid, eave overnight for it to thicken out, put into containers, label and freeze.

    This post is dedicated to Raffaele Frau.

    cherry tomato sauce
    Almost a production line…
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