Too many tomatoes?: Garden columnist shares some of her favorite recipes

Editor’s note: Teresa Futrick writes a gardening column twice a month for the Altoona Mirror. She shares some of her favorite recipes.

The weather in the summer of 2004 produced a bumper crop of tomatoes, so any recipe with a list of ingredients that began with “20 large tomatoes” caught my eye.

Through the years, I’ve used the same ingredients, but the amount of each ingredient has varied by the kinds of vegetables that are ripe and available.

Frozen Tomato Sauce

20 large tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks

4 large onions, cut into chunks (about 4 cups)

4 large carrots, shredded

4 ribs of celery, chopped

4 large green peppers

1/2 cup fresh parsley

1 to 3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Put everything in a pot and bring it to a boil, stirring frequently – don’t allow it to scorch. Simmer 30 minutes or so, until thick. (The time it takes to thicken will depend on how juicy the tomatoes are.) Cool slightly. Ladle into a food mill or blender. When it’s smooth enough to suit you, pour into freezer containers and freeze. (The more you cook the vegetables, the thicker the sauce will get. If you like V-8 juice, this is a very tasty substitute. Just watch it and stop cooking when it’s the right consistency.)

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This recipe is from the King Arthur Flour website. I’ve been using it since 2010. I’ve adjusted some of the ingredients. I don’t like the taste of evaporated milk, so I use half-and-half. Three tablespoons of sugar makes the soup too sweet, so I use just one. According to the King, “The combination of baking soda and sugar completely eliminates the tomatoes’ acidity.” He’s right.

Creamy Tomato Soup

5 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup chopped onions (2 small-to-medium onions)

4 to 5 cups of Frozen Tomato Sauce

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon basil

A dash of black pepper

3 tablespoons flour

1 can (14 to 15 ounces) chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 to 3 tablespoons sugar

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk or 1 1/2 cups half and half

1/2 teaspoon salt

This recipe makes about 8 servings of soup, so be sure to start with a large saucepan.

Heat the butter or margarine and the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, the thyme, basil and black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and broth, whisking till smooth, and add this mixture to the soup, stirring constantly. Cover and simmer slowly for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

(The onion bits will provide a little bit of texture, but if you prefer a smooth soup, use a hand blender to puree them.)

With the burner on low to medium heat, stir in the baking soda (the soup will foam up briefly), add the sugar, the milk and the salt. Heat, stirring to a bare simmer. Serve hot.

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This ragu is “a very emilian ragu,” according to the cook. In 1990 or so, she was the wife of a visiting scholar in Penn State University’s Department of Architectural Engineering. She’d come from their home in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy to spend some time with her husband. Before she left, she made a batch of ragu, and stored it in containers in his freezer. When he was getting ready to return to Italy, he offered the remaining containers to my husband. After some very enthusiastic rave reviews, she gave us the following recipe.

Ragu

This ragu is a Northern Italian meat sauce. It’s not as spicy as the foods in the southern part of the country. It’s usually served over pasta.

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork (or use meatloaf mix)

10 tablespoons olive oil

2 ounces butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 stem of celery, finely chopped

2 large carrots, shredded or finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (my husband’s addition to the list of ingredients)

8 cups water or bouillon

2 ounces tomato paste or Frozen Tomato Sauce*

1 teaspoon salt

1 pinch of nutmeg

Saute the onions, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil and butter. Simmer for 20 minutes or so. Add the ground meat and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 8 cups of water or bouillon, tomato paste or Frozen Tomato Sauce, salt and nutmeg. Cook for about 3 to 4 hours over low heat until most of the liquid has reduced.

* For a more mellow tomato taste, substitute about 2 cups of Frozen Tomato Sauce for the tomato paste.