The undeniable magnificence of home made tomato sauce (with squid and pasta, of course).

Squid in Tomato Sauce (4 of 18)Sorry for the long-winded headline. But, there is an undeniable truth appended to the oversized introduction. That is “If you want a magnificent tomato sauce, you have to use fantastic tomatoes. “Snicker, snicker, snicker.”, you may reply. That’s because you wouldn’t recognise a magnificent tomato if you met it in the street. On our recent French holiday, while attending the Saturday market in St. Foy Le Grande, I met plenty of fine tomato specimens right there on the thoroughfare. Rather than tell you, let me show you.

And you thought that all tomatoes were red.....

And you thought that all tomatoes were red…..

It’s not that there is a tomato stall. The place was full of tomato stalls. All selling incredible, fresh, delicious tomatoes.

€2.50 a kilo. You choose the variety. Mix 'n' Match if you please.

€2.90 a kilo. You choose the variety. Mix ‘n’ Match if you please.

One even thought it would be best to mix things up.

I would love to see the garden where these beauties were grown.

I would love to see the garden where these beauties were grown.

Having been tempted by all this tomatoeness, I thought I ought to cook something. I selected three massive tomatoes and bought some fresh squid. It would have been rude to walk by the fresh pasta stall, particularly since the Italian guy running it learned his English in Dublin. So all I was missing was some fresh parsley, shallots and garlic (The chap on that stall was pure French) and some local wine. Another grower / producer sold us a lovely bottle of (award-winning) Bergerac wine.

Everything bar the salt and pepper came from the market.

Everything bar the salt and pepper came from the market. The fresh pasta was in the fridge.

The three tomatoes weighed over a kilo between them. I placed them in a large pot of hot water to break and loosen the skin.

No, I don't have tiny hands. They are BIG tomatoes.

No, I don’t have tiny hands. They are BIG tomatoes.

A couple of minutes in hot water does wonders for the skin.

It's the only way to peel a tomato.

It’s the only way to peel a tomato.

I sliced the tomatoes and removed the seeds.

These big beauties have many seed pockets and lots of pulp.

These big beauties have many seed pockets and lots of pulp.

This left me with a big bowl of tomato pulp. I put that to one side, sliced the shallots (2 bulbs) and the garlic (2 cloves). I sweated these down in a little olive oil.

The basis of any good sauce, shallots and garlic. Yummm.

The basis of any good sauce, shallots and garlic. Yummm.

Next, I added the tomatoes.

That's a big pan. There was lots of tomato pulp.

That’s a big pan. There was lots of tomato pulp.

I turned the heat down to very low and simmered the tomatoes, garlic and shallots for about two hours. This reduced everything to a thick flavoursome sauce. I then added a handful of chopped parsley.

All that pulp reduced to a thick, delicious sauce.

All that pulp reduced to a thick, delicious sauce.

I then added about a glass of the wine. We were to drink the same wine with the meal so having it in the sauce has a great harmonising effect.

A great flavour comes from layers of flavour. The wine has a couple of layers to it.

A great flavour comes from layers of flavour. The wine has a couple of layers to it.

I then tasted and seasoned the sauce. It had about another half hour of reduction to go. While this was going on, I prepared the squid. I will spare you the detail. You can get full instructions on how to do it here. One picture will be enough.

Removing the outer skin from the squid. Not for the faint of heart.

Removing the outer skin from the squid. Not for the faint of heart.

With about five minutes to go to serving, I added the squid. Any longer and it would be chewy and not very nice.

Once stirred in, the pasta can be added.

Once stirred in, the pasta can be added.

The fresh pasta needed to be warmed through by the sauce.

It's hard to tell what is pasta and what is squid. Who cares!

It’s hard to tell what is pasta and what is squid. Who cares!

When that was done, I served this delicious meal.

Squid and pasta in a tomato sauce. As good as it gets.

Squid and pasta in a tomato sauce. As good as it gets.

The sun was just starting to go down on a lovely, warm, French summer’s evening. We really enjoyed this fresh tomato based dish with a glass or two of local Bergerac wine. If you have access to great, big, tomatoes, give it a go. It takes ages to get the sauce to the right consistency. But, it really is worth the time and effort.

Footnote for tomato fetishests: On a previous trip to a different part of La Belle France, I prepared a similar (yet different) tomato sauce to use on pizza. The link is here, if you are really interested. 

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  • Now there’s a title and a half! Looks gorgeous as always. How I wish we were lucky enough to have such great fresh tomatoes here. Anytime I go on hols I overdose on the juiciest ripest tomatoes I can find.

    • They were pretty spectacular. When we settle back into our post holiday routine, the tinned variety make a pretty good substitute. Pretty good but, not the same.

      • So….you must grow your own. Problem solved.😉

        • Eilis, I wish I could grow them like these ones. If I could, I would, for sure.

  • Those are indeed excellent and impressive tomatoes and if I hadn’t already had a substantial bowl of home made vegetable soup, I’d be thinking wistfully about a nice tomatoey plate of pasta and squid…

    • You probably have a couple of acres of vast tomatoes growing in your plot Kate. It seems to be summer all year around there.

      • I confess: I have a bowl of tomatoes I picked yesterday: cherry tomatoes, Romas and Pink Tropics, which are a tropic-proof version of beefsteak toms. There’s also a bunch of fresh basil, and some Ceylon spinach and Brazilian spinach, both tropical versions…. It *is* winter, but doesn’t get very cold; average daytime temperature is 24C…

        • Your winter is hotter than our summer. I would have to either get very lucky growing them against a “sunny wall” or buy a greenhouse. If I buy a greenhouse, I will also buy a pipe and carpet slippers. All will facilitate my slipping into a premature retirement.

          • Console yourself with the thought that you can grow all sorts of things I can’t… peas, mange tout, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broad beans, runner beans, apples, pears, cherries, plums, raspberries, blackberries… I could go on and on. You adapt yourself, and things like tomatoes are grown in the winter, and the summer you concentrate on the tropical stuff that can put up with the wicked humidity and high temperatures.

          • Like mangos. If you have mangos, all else pales into insignificance.

          • You make a very good point. And pineapples, grown in the garden. And passionfruit… OK, I’ll stop now.

          • Blast! And you make those quilts too. Given the weather, you don’t even need them. It’s not fair.

          • Sorry, sorry….

          • BTW, when you were at Ste-Foy-Le-Grande, you were about 15km from my sister, who lives in Eymet, where they also have a pretty magnificent market. The butcher there is an artist…

          • I have been there. A lovely town. They have a fantastic market. A friend of mine used to live there.

          • Small world…..

  • This looks amazing! I’ve only ever had fried squid (calamari). That sauce with the wine is just making my mouth water though….

    • The squid takes very little cooking. In my opinion, it does need to be fresh rather than frozen. When one gets it right, it is fantastic. When wrong, best to use as rubber bands.

      • I heard either 3 minutes or 1 hour. There’s no in between… I agree with fresh for just about everything!

        • If you are cooking some of the big, big squid, then the longer cooking is needed. Anything you can fit in the kitchen sink only needs a little time.

  • Oh yum!! Absolutely glorious, both the market and the dish. Shall be planting my own tomato plants in about five weeks and yes, it is fun to do the whole multi-coloured and -sized lot: love my Black Russians and the stripy ones and must put some large beef ones in tool ‘Conor’s Pick’ ! Actually I so enjoy cleaning squid: would happily do it every day – so much fun to see the slippery white bodies coming clean of their grey overcoats – but cooking, I am afraid for me a bare two minutes 🙂 !

    • You obviously deal with fresh squid Eha. 2 minutes is plenty if fresh. If not fresh, don’t bother trying to cook them!

      • How can one prepare fresh pasta with frozen squid 🙂 ? Oddly enough 100kms from the Sydney Fish Market and 40kms from the nearest fishmonger, I can get ‘proper’ squid locally only sometimes but fresh baby octopus [about 4cms across] seem to come by the bucketload: some market buyer’s fancy? Different texture and methinks would not ‘marry’ with pasta . . .

        • I have yet to try cooking octopus. We don’t see them here very often. A treat in store.

  • It says a lot about the state of the nation when tinned tomatoes generally taste better than the fresh ones available in the vast majority of supermarkets in this taste forsaken island. I’d blame the EU, but I’d have to get in line for that, and I’m notoriously impatient (except when it comes to sauce, obviously)

    • “Taste forsaken island”. I love the description. It really is not true though. Not yet anyway…

      • No, not completely true. But it’s the day after the bank holiday. I couldn’t possibly be expected to say something nice, could I?

        • Probably a step too far. Post a nicer comment later in the week!

          • I don’t want to shock you, Conor. Might save it for Christmas.

  • That looks delicious!
    I have some French friends who grow the most astonishing beefsteak variety in an ingenious white tent with an elastic support which encourages them to grow upwards. However, size isn’t everything and my Kent farmer Martin’s tomatoes started to ripen two weeks ago and they taste amazing. I was tempted to try some that came in earlier from a different stall, but whilst they looked very attractive they tasted quite bland. Martin says it’s because they don’t row them in soil, which apparently is very important for flavour 🙂

    • The average supermarket tomato here tastes like a pale memory of what tomatoes used to be like. I am convinced that there is more going on than just me fooling myself. Your farmer friend is undoubtedly right. Mind you, lots of sunshine helps too.

      • Too true – supermarket tomatoes should be avoided at all cost. They definitely don’t grow them in dirt!

        • Bizarre that we are even having the conversation.

          • It’s a bit sad really. How did supermarkets manage to screw up food so much?

  • This is making me very hungry. Great tomatoes. Great dish with lots of flavor. Daring but excellent choice to use red wine. Wonderful. Oh how I wish we could get good tomatoes here…

    • You could do great things with them Stefan. The choice in those markets is wonderful.

  • You have me salivating with this one Conor. Featuring you today on my blog…. 🙂

    • I look forward to seeing it. You are flattering me Barb.

  • Oh Oh Oh, now this is something else!!! I haven’t made squid racently, but I now know what will be on the menu on market day! Glorious post Conor!

    • Posting is so easy for me when the markets overflow with great stuff like this. There has also to be an element of novelty in it for me.

  • Oh this looks amazing. You did justice to those lovely tomatoes.

    • Thanks Virginia. I enjoyed it, as you can tell.

  • Fabulous.

    • Thanks Linda. A long process but very simple.

  • You’ve really outdone yourself. I am ambivalent about tomatoes. And I generally dislike seafood in tomato sauce. But … I want that right now!!

    • Thanks Michelle,
      The squid carries it well. A lot of seafood would be overpowered.

  • Wonderful pasta dish….such a good thing. With big firm tomatoes, like the ones in your post, I often peel them with a potato peeler…sliding the blade from side to side as I move down and round the tomato….it really works and is a lot less messy:)

    • A very good thought indeed. The boiling water approach really is pretty messy. Messy, but well worth it.

  • Looks really delicious! I still wait for my own tomatoes to ripen which is probably a waste of time after this, so far, 12 degree-summer. Suppose I’ll end up with fried green tomatoes! 🙂

    • Fried Green Tomatoes I didn’t even like the movie!

  • Mmmm what a glorious dish that is Conor, you done good! All my tomatoes are ripening now with such a hot summer we’ve had. They usually don’t ripen until September, but we’ve been picking them off the vine for a month now! But we don’t have anything remotely as large or beautiful as those tomatoes from the market. My beefsteaks are barely the size of Romas. I think the unduly hot weather has preventing them from growing larger this year. (And yes, I am sorry. I know you’ve had a cool summer.)

    • Hi Kathryn,
      Plenty of water is the answer for beefstakes. You are paying the price for the lovely weather. Thanks for your commiserations.

  • I want to roll in a barrel of those tomatoes! Here, if not your regular round red tomato they are called ‘heirloom’ or ‘gourmet’ or ‘prestige’ or some such and charged accordingly. Can I suggest a small cross in the skin with a sharp knife on the bottom of the tomato before blanching will help with peeling. Great dish, great pics Conor, thanks..

    • Thanks Adam. In truth, I forgot the cross, it being so long since I did this before. The skins pretty well fell off anyway. Great tomatoes!

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