homemade crushed tomatoes (and a recipe for pork and fennel meatballs with pasta)
We still haven’t had a hard freeze overnight yet this year, so the tomato plants just keep on cranking. Here is another recipe to help use up the season’s tomato bounty. I ran across a variation of this recipe for pork and fennel meatballs and thought, “I bet I can make my own crushed tomatoes to substitute for the canned ones.” After doing some painstaking “research” (Internet searching), I was able to create this fresher-than-canned version. If it was the dead of winter, I hadn’t frozen any tomatoes over the summer, and I wanted to prepare the accompanying pasta recipe, I wouldn’t hesitate to use quality canned crushed tomatoes.
Yields 3-1/2 to 4 cups
approximately 10 to 12 medium tomatoes, or 6 to 8 large tomatoes
- Wash tomatoes (cold water).
- Heat a large pot water until boiling, then place tomatoes in boiling water for 60 seconds or until the skins split.
- Dip tomatoes in cold water until cool enough to handle. Slip off tomato skins and remove cores. Quarter tomatoes, trimming away any bruised or discolored parts.
- Heat half of the tomato quarters in a large pot quickly using medium-high to high heat. Crush tomatoes with a wooden spoon as they are added.
- When the tomatoes are boiling, gradually add the remaining tomatoes, stirring constantly. Lower heat to medium or medium-low and cook until tomatoes are softened, about 10 minutes. If a thicker consistency is desired, strain the liquid from about half of the pot of tomatoes (through a colander over the sink) and return tomatoes to the pot to cook for 2 to 3 additional minutes.
- If not using immediately, allow the tomatoes to cool, then pack into containers, then refrigerate (for up to four days) or freeze (for up to four months).
Braised Pork Meatballs with Fennel and Pasta
Yields approximately 4 servings
1 pound ground pork (lean, if possible)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely sliced
1 small fennel bulb (or 1/2 regular sized bulb), trimmed and finely shaved
1/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon fennel seed, ground
3-1/2 cups crushed tomatoes (or one 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes)
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 pound pasta, any shape
1 to 2 tablespoons Romano cheese
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Combine the pork, garlic and fennel seeds in a bowl and season with salt and red pepper flakes. Form approximately fourteen (14) 2-inch round meatballs with the mixture. Place on a tray and transfer to the refrigerator to become firmer, while the sauce is prepared.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Add garlic, onion, and fennel and cook over medium heat until the onions and fennel are tender and starting to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper, and add the ground fennel seeds.
- Add the white wine to deglaze the pot, and then add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover, simmering for about 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high to high heat. When the oil is quite hot, brown the meatballs all over, around 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned meatballs into sauce. Cover sauce lightly, and simmer for another 10 minutes, until the meatballs are very tender.
- Serve sauce and meatballs over prepared pasta. Sprinkle with Romano cheese.