Why It Works
- Salting the tomatoes removes excess moisture so that the uncooked puree isn't too watery.
Serious Eats has an abundance of tomato sauce recipes, for when you have an overabundance of ripe tomatoes. From a sauce made with fresh tomatoes, to a complex oven-roasted sauce from Kenji, and a simple marinara from yours truly.
But recently I noted that we were lacking a basic purée (called a coulis in French or a passata in Italian). You can make this pantry staple with briefly cooked tomatoes, or raw. This is what you want to make when you have perfectly ripe, peak summer tomatoes (in other cases, there are some great bottled passatas).
For a raw tomato coulis, we'll use a blender instead of a pot. This means we'll have to remove the skins and seeds first so that we don't blend them into the sauce—they can add unwanted flavors if not strained out. Plus, because we're not cooking this coulis, we need to remove some moisture to prevent wateriness in the finished puree, which also means the seeds need to go.
To peel the tomatoes, I cut out the stem end and score an X into the skin with a sharp knife. Then I drop them in boiling water until the skins just start to show signs of coming loose around the score marks (just about 30 seconds to a minute). Finally, I transfer the tomatoes to an ice bath to shock them and stop the cooking; this will help loosen the skins even more. You should be able to just peel them right off with your hands.
Then I quarter the tomatoes lengthwise and scoop the seeds out with my fingers. I dice the remaining tomato flesh, transfer it to a mesh strainer set over a bowl, and sprinkle it liberally with salt, which will draw out moisture. After about 30 minutes to an hour, I puree the pulp with a blender. The puree has a very bright, fresh flavor, like gazpacho—but without any of the other ingredients, obviously.
You can pass this purée through a really fine strainer if you want a smoother texture, or leave it as is. Coulis freezes beautifully, and you can use it as a foundation for a full-blown cooked marinara or it would be great tossed with pasta, olive oil, and fresh basil, or spread onto crusty bread and drizzled with olive oil.
- 1 1/2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes (about 8 large tomatoes)
- Kosher salt
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Meanwhile, cut out the stem end of each tomato, then score the skin of each tomato, making an X at the top of each one. Carefully lower tomatoes into boiling water and let stand until skins show the first signs of loosening around the edges of the score marks. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to ice water and let cool; their skins should loosen even more.
Pull off tomato skins and discard. Cut tomatoes into quarters lengthwise, then scoop out seeds and discard. Dice tomato flesh.
Transfer diced tomatoes to a mesh strainer set over a mixing bowl and sprinkle liberally all over with salt. Let stand to drain at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Discard collected liquids.
Transfer salted tomatoes to a tall container and blend with an immersion blender until a smooth puree forms. Alternatively, blend them to a smooth puree in a standing blender. If you want an even smoother puree, pass the blended tomato puree through a fine-mesh strainer. Adjust seasoning with more salt if required (you probably will not need to add more salt). Use as desired, or freeze for up to 6 months.
Make Ahead and Storage
The purée can be frozen for up to 6 months.
- Quick-Cooked Tomato Puree (Passata di Pomodoro) Recipe
- Spaghetti al Pomodoro Crudo (Spaghetti With No-Cook Raw Tomato Sauce) Recipe
- How the Science of Salt Can Improve Your Tomatoes