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Tomato sauce, or, food mill capitulation

The tomatoes came later than usual this year(1), with the peak happening starting last week, and probably not lasting for much longer. Less heat this season, I think, especially since the beefsteak-type Big Rainbows(2) have yet to get beyond the green stage.

Stupice & Early Girl tomatoes (2008)

Nonetheless, we still have plenty of tomatoes to keep us company. Making sauce comes to mind, of course, but unlike last year’s Sun Golds, the Stupice and Early Girls(3) have much thicker skins. So, the Lazy Method would not be advisable. I finally gave in and got a food mill, much to my annoyance of single-task(4) tools. However, it does the job rather nicely (no coring needed, whew), keeping in mind that the disk with the smallest holes is the one which manages to keep out the seeds.


  1. The first ripe tomatoes have usually appeared by June. The last edible ones by October or November.
  2. The Texas Tomato Cages are holding out well in terms of durability. Except for the Big Rainbow, which is leaning somewhat, in spite of being between the other two tomatoes.
  3. Properly indeterminate Early Girls, which have a rich, savory-sweet flavor.
  4. You’d think the food mill would more quickly remove chickpea skins, right? No, ugh, wrong. The skins are soft enough to get shredded, alas, so about half of them pass through. And there’s more waste ‘coz some usable paste cannot be removed until washed and scrubbed out. There are ingredients which put me into a miserly state, where I want to maximize use of every last little bit, like berries for ice cream and chickpeas for hummus. For such items, the food mill sucks. I’d love know about other uses! (Except for apple sauce, please.)

I’d say that just over a pound of tomatoes will yield roughly a pint of sauce with the additional ingredients. YMMV.


  • 6 to 8 pounds of tomatoes, any stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup garlic, minced
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • (optional) sugar, to taste


  1. Wash and quarter the tomatoes. Throw into a large pot and bring to an energetic simmer. It might look like a lot, but as you stir it the level will go down as the tomatoes soften and exude their juices.
  2. Skim off the scum that floats to the surface, every now and then. Stir occasionally until the tomato flesh (pulp) has softened, about 20 minutes.
  3. Put the tomatoes through a food mill (or sieve, or chinoise, whichever works best for you) to remove the skins and seeds. Set aside the resulting thick tomato juice. (It’s kinda sauce-like at this point, but lacking in seasoning and needing a bit more reduction.)
  4. Sauté onions in the olive oil until translucent and golden, about 15 minutes.
  5. Add the coriander to the onions, and stir until fragrant. Stir in garlic until, again, fragrant with garlicky goodness.
  6. Finally, pour in the tomato juice and add the bay leaves. Bring to a(nother energetic) simmer and reduce until your desired sauce-y consistency. Somewhere between 40 and 60 should work, but it depends on the tomatoes’ original water content.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, and sugar, if the tomatoes aren’t sweet enough. Remove from heat and cool until easy enough to handle. Remove the bay leaf, then purée with an immersion blender (or food processor, or…whatever appropriate gadget works).


  1. Rocco wrote:

    Re:# 1 Under METHOD, are the tomatoes simmered in water or alone in a pot? Water is not mentioned.

    Friday, 26 September 2008 at 10:40 am | Permalink
  2. sairuh wrote:

    Rocco, I didn’t add any water to step 1. The tomatoes provided quite a bit of their own liquid, so it wasn’t needed. 🙂

    Friday, 26 September 2008 at 10:48 am | Permalink

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