There are so many ways to enjoy a tomato it’s often difficult to decide what to do with them.
Some tomatoes are absolute perfection when eaten raw while others are ideal for canning. Some you just want to pick and pop in your mouth while others make a superb addition to a panzanella or caprese salad or a hearty soup. With so many options, how is it possible to know which to use?
The fact is, if you ask 100 different tomato growers what their favorite tomato to eat is you‘ll get 100 different answers. For me, it’s Pineapple. I like a slightly sweeter, not too tart tomato. Pineapple is like a tropical fruit. Its beautiful color, a blend of yellow, blush and pink echoes in the flavor. The taste is as sweet and yummy as its outer beauty.
If I’m making a salsa, I always like to include black or purple tomatoes. The black and purple varieties tend to have a slightly smoky flavor that adds depth and complexity to any recipe. They’re also quite fabulous sliced nice and thick to layer on a BLT. Black Krim, Cherokee Purple and Black Mammoth are standards in my garden.
Now, if you ask me what tomato I like for making sauce, I’m going to tell you something altogether different. For sauces, I prefer to use meatier tomatoes that are less juicy and have fewer seeds. People often think of the well-known Roma tomato for sauce. Romas actually aren’t that flavorful, so I generally avoid them. Viva Italia is a very nice paste tomato, but it’s a determinate variety. That means it’s going to produce all of its fruit at one time and then it’s done, so it wouldn’t be my first choice. There are tomatoes like Amish Paste and Sausage that are quite decent tomatoes for sauce. I suggest growing a variety of them so you can make your own comparison.
In many of the upscale markets and cookware shops you will find canned San Marzano tomatoes. San Marzano is a flavorful plum tomato. It grows on high yielding plants and the fruit is somewhat disease resistant. It is a very meaty tomato and holds up to canning well, hence its popularity.
My personal favorite tomato for canning is a strain of San Marzano called San Marzano Redorta. It’s slightly larger and even more flavorful than San Marzano. It has a unique shape and almost looks more like a chile pepper than a tomato. It’s wonderful sliced in a salad and perfect to cut in half, lengthwise, brushed with olive oil and roasted on the grill. San Marzano Redorta is an indeterminate plant which grows like a vine and produces throughout the season. Besides being delicious, it is resistant to Blossom End Rot. This year, an added bonus is that San Marzano Redorta will also be available as a graft from GardenLife.com.
All this talk about sauce is getting me hungry…thankfully I have several jars of tomatoes canned and set aside for a Fall evening such as this. Tonight for dinner I’ll be making Hot and Saucy Meatball Sandwiches. This recipe makes a lot so you’ll have plenty of sauce and meatballs that you can freeze and serve at another time.
Laura’s Favorite Tomato Sauce with Meatballs
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground lean beef
1 large onion, minced
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
½ cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery, trimmed and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
½ cup red wine
2 ½ pounds tomatoes
Fresh parsley leaves
6 basil leaves roughly torn
1 teaspoon salt
Ground Black Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Add onion and carrots, sauté for a minute. Add celery and garlic, continue to sauté over a gently flame until softened. Add the tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper
Add basil for last 5 minutes of cooking.
Puree sauce in blender to desired thickness.
To make meatballs:
Gently beat eggs to combine
Add to other ingredients. Gently work ingredients together until just combined. Do not over-work. Gently form 1 ½ inch balls with meat mixture, being careful not to overwork or pack the meat.
Place on baking sheet and refrigerate, covered, for at least one hour.
Remove meatballs from the refrigerator. Pour a small amount of olive oil in the skillet to coat the bottom. Brown the meatballs on all sides over medium heat. Transfer meatballs to the tomato sauce and cook for 20 minutes. Place meatballs on a sandwich with an ample dollop of sauce. Top with sliced mozzarella, sautéed onions or bell peppers, if desired.