How to Make Fresh Garden Tomato Sauce and Survive Depression by author Cleo Coyle

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During the Great Depression, my father's father kept his large family fed by working a small farm from which they sold produce. Every spring, my dad helped his father plant 2,000 tomato plants for their family. Years later, when my dad had a family of his own, he continued that tradition, raising more than 100 tomato plants in back of our suburban home for us every summer, without fail.

My late father, Tony Alfonsi, 
with his Italian-born mother (my
grandmother) Grazia. My dad was a
tough guy with a tender heart.
He served in the Army Air Corps
worked for years in a Pittsburgh
steel mill. (You can see the mill's
in the background.)
Garden tomatoes helped his family
survive the Great Depression.

Fresh garden tomato sauce was always part of that yield. Below is the recipe I now make in my home. The amazing smell of the sauce cooking brings me right back to my childhood and memories of my beloved dad.

The nutrition in freshly cooked tomatoes is a mood lifter, and this process, shared with friends or family, will uplift your spirits, as well.

May you cook it with love and make lifelong memories of your own. 

~ Cleo
(aka Alice Alfonsi)

To download my recipe now in a free PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here

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8 pounds of fresh tomatoes will
cook down to about 1 to 1-1/2 quarts
(4-6 cups) of sauce.

Cleo Coyle writes two
bestselling mystery
 series with her husband.
To learn more, click here.

🍅 A Recipe Note from Cleo

If you've never made your own spaghetti sauce from fresh tomatoes, you are missing one of life's most satisfying culinary pleasures. It's a wonderful project for families, couples, or any curious cook who's never had the experience. The very smell of that sauce cooking will make you swoon. And the taste is so bright and fresh. It's like nothing else on earth.

What kind of tomatoes 
should you use?

While Roma (aka Italian plum) tomatoes are traditionally used for sauce, you can use practically any tomato for this recipe or even mix the varieties. Use your nose to judge the tomato's quality. (Some grocery store tomatoes have no smell. Do you know what I mean? Pass those by and look for tomatoes that smell like tomatoes!)

Whether you grow your own, pass a farm stand with big baskets, or simply see a sale at your grocery, you can make this sauce out of practically any tomatoes you find, just make sure they're ripe (not rotten, mind you, but beautifully ripe), and carry a nice tomato scent. The more your ripe tomatoes smell like they were picked from an earthy garden, the fresher and brighter your sauce will taste!

To download this recipe
in a PDF document 
that you can
 print, save, or share, click here
or on the image below..

🍅 Cleo Coyle's
Fresh Garden
Tomato Sauce

Makes about 1 to 1-1/2 quarts of sauce
(depending on your thickness preference)


8 pounds ripe tomatoes (What kind? See my recipe note, above.)

1 onion (I use red, but any kind will do.)

4 cloves garlic

5 tablespoons butter (The secret ingredient for a smooth, sweet sauce.)

🍅 How to Prep Tomatoes for Cooking 🍅

Peeling and de-seeding tomatoes will remove bitterness and unwanted textures from your sauce, bringing it to a higher level of taste, so it’s truly worth the trouble. It's easy to do and once learned the skill can be used it in a lifetime of cooking.

In the video below, you will see 
how to perform this simple process...




Cleo's Step-by-Step Photos


1 - Peel tomatoes to improve sauce texture: Remove stems and shallowly core as shown in my photo. Slice a small X at the bottom of each tomato.

Place a few tomatoes at a time into a pot of simmering (or boiling) water. After 30 seconds (for small tomatoes) or 1 minute (for larger), no more. Remove immediately and drop in a bowl of very cold water to stop the cooking.

Using your fingers, gently peel the skin off the tomatoes. If you have any trouble with peeling a tomato, simply place it back in the boiling water for another 15 seconds or so and repeat the process. (Just be careful not to cook the tomatoes too much or you'll end up with a hand of mush.)

TIP: You can save the skins to make a
delicious condiment "sun-dried tomato flakes,"
great on sandwiches and salads,

Click the photo for the recipe.

2 – De-seed tomatoes to cut bitterness: Cut the peeled tomatoes in half. Make sure you cut it as shown, crosswise, along its equator. Using a small spoon, gently dig out the seeds and discard. You will not get every single seed out, and that's okay, just get as many as you can and you'll improve the sauce flavor.

3 – Hand-squash your tomatoes: This is the fun part (kids love it). Place a large pot on the stove. Using clean hands, roughly crush each peeled and seeded tomato over the pot and toss inside.

4 – Cook your tomatoes: Cook down the tomatoes over medium-high heat for about 30 or so minutes. To prevent scorching, stir the sauce every so often. Use a large spoon; and, as you stir, smash the tomatoes, crushing them up as they cook.

5 - Easy add-ins (onions and garlic): To preserve the fresh garden flavor of this sauce, I do not use spices. I simply add 2 roughly chopped medium onions and 4 cloves of smashed garlic. 

Note: roughly chop the onions and garlic at this stage because, at the end of the cooking process, I use a hand blender to smooth any remaining big chunks. If you prefer, you can do the work now, and finely chop these veggies or put them through the food processor. Then they will cook into the sauce, mostly dissolving by the end. 

Stir in the onion and garlic, and then...

6 - Add the butter (the secret ingredient): As the butter cooks into the sauce, it cuts some of the acid in the tomatoes, leaving you with a sweet, smooth, bright-tasting tomato sauce that is out of this world.

Continue cooking the sauce down for another 20 to 30 minutes. You are watching for the excess liquid to evaporate, the onions to wilt and begin to dissolve and the sauce to thicken up...

7 - Buzz with a hand blender: To finish, use an immersion (hand) blender to smooth out any remaining chunks before serving. If you don't have a hand blender, you can use a food processor, food mill, or standing blender.

8  - Too thick? Add water, stock, or wine: If you happen to boil the sauce down too far, and it's too thick for your taste, you can correct it by adding water or a little vegetable (or beef) stock, or even wine. Continue cooking the sauce until you get the consistency (thinness or thickness) that you prefer. 

Storing: This sauce will stay fresh about 
1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months 
in the freezer. 

Eat (and read) with joy!

New York Times bestselling author
of The Coffeehouse Mysteries and
Haunted Bookshop Mysteries

Cleo (Alice) with her husband Marc

Visit Cleo's online coffeehouse here.
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Our 20th 

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