Serves 4 to 6
Six pounds of beefsteak tomatoes, if properly ripe, will produce about 4 cups of finished tomato sauce, so you might have some tomato sauce left over. You can store it in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to 5 days.
- Fresh tomato and basil sauce
- 6 lb ripe beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and halved
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, minced
- 3/4 cup torn basil
- Kosher salt, as needed
- 1 lb dried penne rigate
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, as needed for serving (optional)
- Squeeze the tomatoes to remove the seeds and juices (the juices can be reserved for use in another dish). Cut into large chunks and let them drain in a colander until they are fairly dry, about 1 hour.
- Heat the oil in a large, wide pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes are falling apart and most of the liquid has reduced, about 1 hour. (If the sauce still appears too watery, spoon off some of the excess liquid.) Add about half of the basil, taste, and adjust the seasoning with a pinch of salt, if needed. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the penne all at once and stir a few times to separate and submerge the pieces. Cook, uncovered, until the pasta is almost cooked, 6 to 7 minutes (check the cooking time for your pasta and cook it 1 to 2 minutes less than the recommended time). Drain the pasta in a colander. Shake well to remove any water clinging to the pasta.
- Reheat about 3 cups of the tomato sauce in a large pan, add the drained pasta, and cook over medium heat until the pasta is coated well and cooked through. Add the cheese, if using, and serve in a heated serving dish or in pasta plates, topped with the remaining basil.
You can use canned tomatoes, if you prefer; use about 10 cups and reduce the cooking time to 30 minutes. Use a whisk or a potato masher to break up the tomatoes as the sauce cooks.
If you want a smoother sauce, you can purée it through a food mill using the largest opening.
You can add garlic (about 4 cloves, minced or sliced) when cooking the onion in step 2. If you have any leftover Parmesan rind, you can add it to the tomato sauce while it is cooking. You can also add 1 bay leaf to the sauce while it is cooking. Remove and discard the Parmesan rind and bay leaf before serving.