Pomarola, a Simple Italian Tomato Sauce
Pomarola is one of the easiest Italian tomato sauces, made with basic ingredients: ripe tomatoes and a bunch of odori, the classic combination of onion, carrot, and celery, the foundation of Italian cooking. This is also one of the preserves we make during the peak of tomato season, to trap summer flavors in a jar for the colder months to come.
To puree the tomatoes after cooking, a vegetable mill is the best option, as it also strains out the skins, giving you a smooth, velvety sauce. If you don’t have one, an immersion blender would work, too, but it incorporates more air and skins, resulting in a sauce that is less smooth and usually lighter in color.
With a jar of pomarola on hand, you have the basis for a quick, flavorful meal that you can prepare in the time it takes to cook your favorite pasta. Simply reheat a portion in a little saucepan and toss it with the cooked pasta in a large bowl. Add a knob of butter, as my grandma always does, to round out the flavor, and finish with a generous dusting of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Your meal is ready.
Makes about 6 cups
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 3/4 pounds ripe tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- A handful fresh basil leaves
Cover the bottom of a large pot with a layer of extra virgin olive oil. Add the finely chopped onion and cook gently over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. The onion should soften, but pay attention not to burn it.
Stir in the finely chopped carrots and celery and cook for 10 more minutes over low heat, stirring frequently.
In the meantime, cut the tomatoes into quarters and deseed them. Add them into the pot, followed by the salt and basil, and cook over medium heat for 20–25 minutes, stirring often.
Set a colander over a large bowl. When the tomatoes are soft, turn off the heat and pour everything into the colander. Reserve the strained cooking liquid in the bowl.
Purée the tomatoes with a vegetable mill using the finest sieve (see recipe headnote), and return the sauce to the pot. If it gets difficult to turn the mill, add a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid to help.
Now check the texture of your pomarola—it will depend on the tomatoes you chose. If it’s still too watery, you can cook it again over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until thickened.
Pour the pomarola into sterilized jars and seal the lids tightly. Place the jars in a large pot, cover them with water, and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 20 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the jars cool down completely before removing them.
The jars can be kept in the pantry for several months. After opening a jar, store it in the refrigerator.