How To Cook With Tomatoes: The Best Recipes For Gardeners

how to cook with tomatoes sauce and basil main

Tomatoes are one of our favourite things to grow in the garden because they produce such a high yield of edible fruit””the problem is, sometimes we’re left with more than we know what to do with, and we end up scrambling for recipe ideas before our garden harvest starts to spoil! The good news is, there are so many staple kitchen sauces and other concoctions that can be used in countless dishes, so it’s really not hard to use them all up if you plan it right. 

Here are the best tomato recipes in Edmonton, so you can dress up your favourite meals with a burst of garden fresh flavour. These simple bases will help you to make amazing meals like spicy enchiladas with salsa, tortilla soup, spaghetti bolognese, chili con carne””the list goes on! 

The Best Tomato Sauce Recipe

Start by taking five pounds of firm, ripe, rinsed tomatoes, and slice them in half. Squeeze out the seeds and discard them. Next, grab a bowl and a cheese grater, and grate the fruits until you’re left with several cups of mushy pulp.

Heat the pulp in a saucepan on medium-high heat, then add 1 tsp of salt, 2 tbsp of olive oil, one bay leaf, and however much garlic and basil you’d prefer. Some folks prefer just a single clove of garlic, and I think those folks are lying to themselves. Extra garlic, always, please and thank you. 

how to cook with tomatoes sauce

Once your sauce is boiling, bring it down to a simmer, and stir it occasionally for 15 minutes. This should help to reduce and thicken the sauce to the ideal consistency. You should be left with about 2.5″“3 cups of sauce by the end, and at this point you can taste it to see if it’s tasting salty and garlicky enough. 

The sauce will keep in the fridge for about 5 days, but can be easily frozen and stored for longer, or canned in sterile jars. If you want to jazz up your sauce with some extras, try throwing in some garden veggies like zucchini, onion, eggplant, and peppers, or cook up some ground beef or Italian sausage to make it extra hearty. 

Making Tomato Paste

Paste is different from sauce because it’s thicker and more concentrated. It’s usually an additive instead of a base, bringing flavour, colour, and delicious acidity to your recipes. It’s a great starter for your favourite cream of tomato soup recipe, and it’s fabulous in stir fries and casseroles. 

To start, you’ll want about 6 pounds of fresh tomatoes, rinse them thoroughly, cut off any mushy bits or remaining stems, and then slice them up into chunks. Pour the chunks in the blender, and blend until smooth.

Next, you’ll need a large, fine mesh sieve that you can place over a bowl. Pour the liquid from the blender into the sieve, and stir with a spoon so the moisture separates from the pulp. If you’d like to keep the pulp to use in another dish, or if you want to keep those seeds to try and sprout them, you certainly can, or you can just toss it out.

how to cook with tomatoes paste

All that remaining juice in the bowl is what’s going to be the base for your paste. Pour it into a large, non-stick pan, and heat it up on medium-high. Keep stirring while the moisture evaporates””the less moisture there is, the longer it will keep in the fridge! Once it’s fairly reduced, but not quite pasty enough, add in 1 tsp of salt. 

Keep reducing the puree until it’s super pasty and there’s barely any watery moisture left. Once it’s done, transfer it to a bowl and let it cool entirely before storing it. Once it has cooled, add in 2 tbsp of olive oil, stir it up, and let it sit a little longer. You can then transfer it to a glass jar for easy storage!  

Spice Up Some Salsa

Salsa is definitely one of the tastiest ways to eat a ton of raw veggies or fruit in one sitting. Knowing how to make your own basic salsa is handy because from there you can customize it with all sorts of different veggies and herbs from the garden! Whether you like it mild or scorching hot, this simple salsa base is a perfect place to start. 

Essentially, all you need to do to make your own salsa is take plenty of firm, flavourful tomatoes, and slice them up into tiny chunks that won’t be too big that they end up snapping your tortilla chips. A salsa full of broken chip bits isn’t ideal! Add some salt, a small splash of cider vinegar, a squeeze of lime juice, and a little bit of minced sweet onion, and you’ve got your basic salsa. 

how to cook with tomatoes salsa

Many salsa purists would argue that you need to add a big bunch of minced cilantro to really give it that authentic flavour, but I know there’s a lot of cilantro haters out there, so at the end of the day, it’s your call. Other spices like chili powder, cumin and chipotle seasoning will bring a nice aromatic Southwest flavour, so the cilantro isn’t mandatory.  

From there, you can add in extra stuff to give it more kick. Roasted sweet bell peppers add a smoky, rich flavour, especially when you add a sprinkle of chipotle seasoning. Spicy chili peppers, or crazy hot varieties like ghost pepper, will add a fiery heat that only the bravest of souls can handle. Other additives like black beans, roasted garlic, and corn add some more bulk and variety to your salsa. You could even cube some avocado and gently toss it with the salsa, without letting it get too mushy. 

If you want to know more about growing this classic savoury garden fruit, and the different varieties available, check out our Tomato Guide! If your veggie gardening endeavours haven’t been so successful in the past, this handy guide should help simplify the process. 
Our greenhouse is open, and we’ve got delivery and curbside pickup options available, so if there’s anything you need before summer comes to a close, don’t hesitate to visit us or shop online. Canning season is well underway, and the Salisbury team is happy to help you make the most of your delicious garden harvest by providing the tools and the intel you need to become a total pro at garden preserves.


Read through our Growing Guides for tips to enrich your garden! 

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