This sauce gives the impression of being long-simmered on the stove, but in effect it’s pretty quick and easy. Maybe not as quick as Bonnie Stern makes it out to be in her book The Best of Heartsmart Cooking, but it’s definitely pretty high up there on the list of “any idiot can do it” recipes. You don’t even chop the tomatoes.
It you’re going to use it as a pizza sauce, just let it cook a little longer, until more of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have broken down completely. It’s a bit of a sin to do this with high quality cherry tomatoes, which I very much believe should be eaten raw unless you have a ridiculous surplus of them and are just looking for ways to use them up before they go bad. But sometimes we all need a little Italian comfort in the form of pizza and pasta and with high quality cherry tomatoes this would be spectacular, so it’s up to you.
Cherry Tomato Sauce for Pizza or Pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped or diced (green inside bulb removed if the garlic is old)
pinch of hot red pepper flakes
4 cups (1lb) whole cherry tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp chopped or sliced (Bonnie says “shredded”) basil
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon (optional – use it if your tomatoes are very acidic. Do test a tomato and if it’s more bitter than sweet, use the cinnamon to neutralize it a little)
Heat the oil in a large skillet or pot on medium heat (the bigger the bottom surface of the pot, the faster this will cook and the happier you’ll be to not be standing at the stove stirring. Ask my dad, aide-de-cuisine that he was). When the oil is hot add the chopped garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook for 3 minutes, until you can start to smell the garlic cooking.
Add the cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, and optional cinnamon and cook for about 10-12 minutes, or until the tomatoes split open and become sauce-like. You shouldn’t have to mash them, but once they split you’ll need to stir almost constantly to keep them from sticking. You can also add up to a 1/4 cup of water to keep it from sticking, but you’ll just need to boil that off later unless you like soupy, watery pasta sauce, so don’t go overboard. Be patient. Stir. The tomatoes will break down.
Note: For pasta sauce only you know what consistency is right. Some people like it thick and chunky and others like it thin. You shouldn’t have to add a pinch of sugar, but I can’t see you cooking, so if you like it sweeter go ahead. For pizza sauce you need it to thicken more so it doesn’t soak into the crust and make it wet and overly-doughy. It requires more patience but just be glad you’re making pizza and not labour-intensive gnocchi or or hand-stuffed ravioli or something that should be reserved for a very special dinner with very special appreciative people.