Using Your Bumper Crop of Tomatoes

tomato recipes

Over the last few weeks our tomato plants have produced our largest fall haul yet!

Each year we add a few more plants to our home garden (you can check this picture to see how we garden in a small city subdivision) this year we had 30 tomato plants! I kid you not! Before the snow started to fly this week, we pulled the last of our tomatoes, pulled the plants to mulch and added some smashed pumpkins (the ones I carved for Halloween) and topped with a bed of hay.

But that meant I had a ton of ripe and almost ripe tomatoes and it turned our kitchen into a tomato processing facility!

Last year I developed a very simple pasta sauce recipe, which I'll include below. I canned it in large mason jars and gave half of our spoils to The Oldest when he moved into his college dorm. The rest I saved for those winter nights when we were craving a taste of summer, which always seems so far off in cold and dark February. This is why I love making my own tomato bases for meals. You can almost taste the sunshine in food! It's so much better than store bought (that gives you nothing more than heartburn)

This year I made two batches of my simple pasta sauce and many, many batches of my cooked tomatoes that I plan on using as a base for chili and casseroles in the winter months.

Celebrating This Life Simple Pasta Sauce


5-6 Large tomatoes (the fresher the better!) cored, peeled and cut into chunks
3 Tablespoons EVOO
5 Cloves garlic, minced
Salt (I prefer Maldon Sea Salt Flakes)
Fresh ground black pepper
Chopped fresh basil


To remove skins from tomatoes set a large pot of boiling water on the stove. On your counter, fill a heatproof bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes. Grab a set of tongs. Wash and core your tomatoes. Using a very sharp knife (please be careful!) make an X mark on the very bottom.

home cooking

Place into pot 2-3 at a time and leave to boil for 1-2 mins. They will be ready when you can see the skin lifting where you made your X mark. Using the tongs, lift tomatoes out of boiling water and place into the cold water for 1-2 mins.

cooking tomatoes

Once cool enough to handle, remove from water and shake off the excess. Peel the skins off and chop your tomatoes. Repeat with remaining tomatoes.

In a cold pan, add EVOO and garlic. Turn heat to medium-high and cook for 2 mins, just until the garlic sizzles and is fragrant. You don't want to brown your garlic. Add tomatoes and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer stirring occasionally for 25 mins. You will know when it is ready because the tomatoes are completely cooked down and the sauce coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat and add pepper and fresh basil. Taste and add salt as needed. If using sea salt be careful not to over salt as it is stronger than table salt.

weeknight dinner, simple recipe

Last Saturday night I used this as our tomato sauce on some fresh penne pasta. I save the leftovers in a the largest container of my Rubbermaid Food Storage Set (and I just got word that the 28 piece set will be a doorbuster for Target's Black Friday sale! Reg $30, will be $7.99!)

On Sunday afternoon I took the leftovers and placed into a baking dish (I have the Le Creuset Poterie Oval dish in Chili Red. They are stoneware dishes meant to go from freezer to oven in a snap. I bought mine at HomeSense and it is much cheaper than traditional Le Creuset) topped with some parmesan and shredded mozzarella and baked in a 350 degree oven until bubbly.

Celebrating This Life Cooked Tomatoes

Used as a base for chili, soups & stews. Requires the use of a CrockPot

Enough tomatoes to almost fill your CrockPot
6-8 Cloves of garlic, minced
3 Carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 Tablespoons EVOO
3 Dried bay leaves
Fresh or dried spices
-2 teaspoons basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
or use 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning instead of the above
Salt and pepper

Wash and chop your tomatoes. No need to remove skins.

Add all ingredients to Crockpot and cook on low for 7-8 hours, stirring occasionally.

freezer recipes

I turned mine on before I went to bed and by the afternoon the next day it was all done cooking. You can't over-cook this recipe, in fact the more time you give, the better your result!

Let cool in the crockpot. Using a hand held immersion blender, blend the sauce until smooth.

Place in freezer bags marked with the number of cups and date.

tomato sauce recipe

I did this three times over the course of a week. Now I have three bags of 5 cups and 4 bags of 2 cups of fresh tomato sauce that I can use over the winter instead of buying canned tomato sauce. This will taste so much fresher in my chili in December, my beef stew in January, my tomato vegetable soup in February and my lasagna in March. By then it will be spring and our thoughts can turn to planting more tomato plants so next year's harvest can be even bigger!