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Smoked Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is so elemental, so essential to human happiness, of course you’ll want to have a few smoked and grilled versions in your repertory. Spread atop grilled pizza. Use to make Cedar-Planked Eggplant Parmigiana. Spoon it over your favorite pasta. I always keep a quart handy in my freezer.


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Smoked Tomato Sauce

Recipe Notes

  • Active Prep: 10 minutes, plus 5 to 10 minutes for simmering the sauce
  • Grill Time: 12 to 20 minutes for smoke-roasting (indirect grilling with wood smoke); 1 hour for smoking
  • Yield: Makes 3-1/2 to 4 cups
  • Method: Smoke-roasting (indirect grilling with wood smoke) or smoking

Ingredients

  • 4 to 5 luscious ripe red tomatoes (about 2-1/2 pounds), cut in half widthwise
  • 1/2 green bell or poblano pepper (optional)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
  • 1 clove garlic or 1 small shallot, peeled
  • 1 rib celery, washed (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry white vermouth or white wine
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, slivered
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, slivered, or more basil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, or to taste (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, or more olive oil

Recipe Steps

1: Set up your grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium.

2: Arrange the tomatoes, bell pepper (if using), onion, garlic, and celery (if using), in a large aluminum foil drip pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.

3: Place the vegetables in their pan on the grill away from the heat. If enhancing a charcoal fire, add the wood chunks or chips to the coals; if enhancing a gas grill, place the chunks or chips in your grill’s smoker box or place chunks under the grate directly over one or more burners. Close the grill lid. Smoke the veggies until the tomatoes are soft and smoky, 12 to 20 minutes. Note: You can also smoke the veggies low and slow in a smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions: You’ll need about 1 hour.

4: Remove the pan from the heat and let the vegetables cool, then transfer to a cutting board. Some people like to remove the tomato skins—I don’t bother. Finely chop the tomatoes and set them aside. Finely chop the pepper (if using), onion, garlic, and celery (if using).

5: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the grilled pepper (if using), onion, garlic, and celery (if using), and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the vermouth and boil until mostly evaporated, about 1 minute.

6: Stir in the chopped tomatoes with their juices and the basil and sage. Gently simmer the sauce until richly flavored, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the sugar if you’d like the sauce to be a little sweeter. Stir in the butter at the end. Correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste: The tomato sauce should be highly seasoned. If not serving right away, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or freeze.

Recipe Tips

This gives you a fairly coarse tomato sauce, which is how I like it. For a finer sauce, you could puree it with an immersion blender or in a
food processor.

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