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nonni’s sauce


It’s definitely fall. October is usually pretty warm in Oakland, but the air has gotten really crisp, and the light is all golden. I love this time of year. One of the things I miss about the Midwest is that distinct change of season, but we do get it here – it’s just a bit quieter.

One of my favorite things about fall is the canning and preparing of the harvest. Since our garden is miniscule, we don’t really have much of a harvest, but some years we’ll end up with bags of pears or the last of the plums from the farmers’ market and make jam. Not this year. This October there’s way too much going on to take on extra canning projects, but we DID have a huge tomato harvest (as I’ve documented here), and all those lovely tomatoes have been hanging out on the counter, taunting me as I try to keep up with all the other things I’m supposed to be doing. Dave finally took matters into his own hands last night and made Nonni’s Sauce, the tomato sauce recipe that I learned from my mom, and she learned from my adopted Italian grandmother (actually a neighbor, but a very special person in our family), Nonni DiFlorentis. It was so nice to work into the night with the smell of cooking tomatoes and garlic and olive oil wafting in from the kitchen. The result is simple – it’s just three ingredients – but it is the most pure, sweet sauce I’ve had. We usually end up eating most of it spread on crusty bread with a sprinkling of sea salt. Here are the instructions, in case any of you have an abundance of tomatoes to use. I didn’t catch Dave in the act of making it this year, but I’ll include some photos of us making the sauce with my mom last year.

Nonni’s Sauce

tomatoes (at least a colander-full, as they will cook down a lot)
olive oil

To prepare tomatoes: boil a pot of water and drop tomatoes in carefully, leaving for a couple of seconds and removing with a slotted spoon. This part is a bit tricky, because you want to leave the tomatoes in just long enough for the skin to become easy to peel, but not so long as to make them mushy. The timing depends on the type and ripeness of the fruit, so start one at a time and test to see what your timing should be. Once all tomatoes have been dunked, peel and split in half, squeezing out any excess water and seeds into the sink.

Arrange the tomatoes in a frying or saucepan in one layer. Add fresh, peeled garlic. The specific quantity of garlic, as told to my mom by Nonni, is “one piece the size of your leetle finger tip” every inch. This is a bit loose, but I’d say adjust according to your taste. Then pour a healthy drizzling of olive oil over the tomatoes.

Cook, uncovered, over high heat until boiling, then lower heat and cook until all water evaporates and the tomatoes glisten with the olive oil. This can take a couple of hours (it took about 5 last night, but that was over low heat the whole time). Be very careful towards the end not to scorch the sauce.

Once the tomatoes have been cooked down, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. At this point, you can add salt and pepper if you like, or just leave it as a sweet paste.




  • Anonymous

    our family also adds onions, peppers and basil and puts it into a big roasting pan … then it goes into a pre-heated OVEN and ROASTS all afternoon … the “water” evaporates and leaves the flavor … and then we FREEZE it to enjoy all winter long

  • monaluna

    That sounds amazing! I might have to try that method next time. Thanks!

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