During our last trip to the Saturday Greenmarket in Union Square, I spotted some gorgeous plump teardrop-shaped tomatoes at the Mountain Sweet Berry stand. Sadly, the entire box was spoken for – the gentleman buying them said these Canestrino tomatoes make the best sauce he’s ever tasted, so of course I was intrigued. We walked away empty-handed that day, but I asked Mike to swing by Mountain Sweet Berry on Wednesday morning and see if he could score some. He brought home four fat beauties, and I made plans to cook up a test batch of sauce over the weekend. I’ve had a very un-seasonal craving for meatballs lately, so I decided to make a batch of those to go with our sauce and pasta.
After I blanched and peeled the tomatoes, I placed them into a bowl to crush them, and the minute the aroma hit my nose, I knew we were going to have a winner on our hands. The scent was sweet and intensely tomato-ey, with rich notes of minerals and earth. They smelled exactly like what a tomato should smell like, and they made an incredible sauce. The heat of August may not be ideal for spending time in the kitchen making big batches of tomato sauce, but for flavor like this, I’m going to do just that.
Basic Tomato Sauce
4 large Canestrino tomatoes
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, peeled and chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup white vermouth
(Optional: fresh basil, thyme, flat-leaf parsley or marjoram)
Cut a shallow X in the bottom end of each tomato. Drop into a pot of boiling water and cook 1-2 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water, drop them into a bowl of cold water and set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel the tomatoes, place into a bowl and crush them gently with your hands. You should have about 2 cups of puree.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add onion and carrot to pan, season with salt and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two, then add the tomato paste, letting it sit for a moment to caramelize before stirring it into the other ingredients. Add the crushed tomatoes, vermouth, and a bit more salt. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 25-30 minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed.
1 lb. ground chuck
1 lb. ground pork
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon water
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Place breadcrumbs in a large bowl and moisten them with a tablespoon of water. Add egg and season well with salt and pepper.
In a mini-chopper, pulse onion and garlic until they are very finely minced. Add the onion/garlic mixture to the moistened breadcrumbs, add the chopped herbs, and stir until well combined. Add the beef and pork, and gently mix with clean hands until all ingredients are well incorporated. Take about 2-3 tablespoons of the meat mixture and roll into balls (you should end up with 28-30 total). Fry in hot oil until browned, then drain on paper towels. Add meatballs to tomato sauce, cover, and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with crusty bread or hot cooked pasta tossed with the remaining tomato sauce and freshly grated Parmagiano Reggiano.