What To Do With All Those Tomatoes? Marinara Caprese Style!

Fresh tomatoes are the best gift of summer.  As a small girl, I spent many summers with my grandmother at her house in the country.  For lunch she would go out to her garden and pick a big ripe tomato and make us a tomato sandwich with swiss cheese and mayonnaise.  I can still taste the sweet ripe tomato warmed from the sun.  Ever since then, I always look forward to the variety of fresh tomatoes available in the summer.


This year our landscape designer, Jill Harris, built a square foot garden where I could grow my favorite summer vegetables.  It is amazing how much such a small area can produce.  In my garden this year I had 3 different types of tomatoes– San Marzano, roma and yellow cherry tomatoes as well as several basil plants.  Usually I pick only enough to eat for that day.  Today the tomatoes seemed to be growing at an accelerated pace and the basil was starting to seed.  All of the sudden I had A LOT that needed to be harvested.  So what was I going to do with all those tomatoes, especially the little cherry tomatoes?  Jill suggested making a tomato sauce. I also had a few heirloom tomatoes that someone had given me last week that were too soft for a salad so they were candidates for my sauce.


I haven’t made a marinara sauce before from scratch with fresh tomatoes.   I decided to experiment by using lots of fresh fragrant basil from my garden.  Most marinara recipes have you peel the tomatoes before you chop them.  I didn’t have any interest in peeling the tomatoes.  With all the cherry tomatoes, it just wasn’t practical so I put all the tomatoes in the sauce with the skins on.  The real secret to this sauce is the balsamic vinegar and touch of red wine vinegar.  With all of the sweet tomatoes, the fresh basil and the vinegars, the finished sauce reminds you of a caprese salad, except with a little kick (the red pepper flakes).  The sauce takes a little time to prepare.  It took me a little over an hour to the final cooked sauce.  I think it is best if you let it sit a while before it is served so that the flavors fully develop.  My Marinara Caprese Style is perfect just over linguine or you can add slices of grilled chicken breast or grilled shrimp.  It makes a lot so there is plenty to put in jars for another day or to share with a friend. 


Marinara Caprese Style


1/4 cup good olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

8 –  10 cloves of garlic, minced

4 lbs. or so of fresh tomatoes – a mix of heirloom, roma, yellow cherry tomatoes or whatever is available

1/2 cup fresh basil, julienned

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. sugar

2 bay leaves

3 tbsp. tomato paste (preferably San Marzano brand in a tube)

2 tsp. very good balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

salt and pepper


Sauteed Onions and Garlic

In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onions and garlic together over medium or medium low heat until translucent and soft, about 5 to 10 minutes.


Chop the tomatoes and half the cherry tomatoes.  When onions and garlic are cooked down, add all the tomatoes, basil, oregano, sugar, tomato paste, bay leaves and salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat and stir frequently, breaking up the tomatoes as they cook down.  When tomatoes start to break down, stir in the balsamic and red wine vinegar and red pepper flakes and continue cooking for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Taste to check for salt and pepper and whether more vinegar is needed based on your preference.

Marinara Caprese Style

The sauce will be a little chunky and will have some tomato skins, so to smooth it out, use an immersion blender to break the sauce up or put in a food processor and pulse a few times to your desired consistency.



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5 Responses to What To Do With All Those Tomatoes? Marinara Caprese Style!

  1. Jill, Louise's Landscape Designer says:

    I am impressed!!! This morning we were talking about harvesting and within hours you picked your produce, invented Caprese Tomato Sauce, cooked and documented it, canned it, and added the whole experience to your blog. Is there nothing that you can’t do?
    I sure could use a lesson in canning…. hint hint!
    I am certain you and Howie will be eating a delicious dinner tonight!
    Good for you.

  2. pat Hubbard says:

    Louise, a girl after my own heart. To get the skins off of the toms real easy is to pour hot boiling water over them or dip them in the very hot water for only a second and you will find the skins will just slide off. I think I can make an Italian out of you real easy. Love U Aunt P

  3. Tammy says:

    This was “OUTSTANDING” I just made this at 9:00 am this morning. Woke everyone up. My family is just dipping bread in it and going crazy. So easy to make…
    Thank you for this recipe..
    I cant wait to try your other recipes..

  4. Louise says:

    Thanks Tammy!! The balsamic vinegar is the secret.

  5. VJ says:

    It is my neighbor’s birthday today. Several weeks ago, she planted a tomato plant that has given birth to an incredible amount of fruit. I used your recipe to prepare a birthday sauce, substituting marjoram for oregano (as I had none) and Japanese rice vinegar in place of the red wine vinegar (as I had none of that, either!). The flavor is robust and spicy.

    Thank you very much for sharing your recipe. I, too, had no interest in peeling cherry tomatoes and used my immersion blender to break everything down (after removing the bay leaves). I am so proud of myself!

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