In the land of the best tomatoes, few evoke a sense of nostalgia and anticipation quite like the Early Girl tomato. These plump, vibrant bright red tomatoes, bursting with a sweet flavor, to let us know the arrival of summer's bounty is near, signaling the start of a season brimming with fresh, garden-grown produce. Growing up in Washington, tomato season comes and goes quickly, limiting access to local fresh tomatoes, but creating great appreciation for this special time of the year.
My parents had green thumbs, and though I am still finding mine, I greatly appreciate the time and effort my parents took to harvest fresh produce from our own garden. Year after year, we'd pick the first tomatoes from the Early Girl tomato plants my Mom cared for. We would take the ripe tomatoes into to the house, wash them, cut thick slices of tomatoes, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, layered between two pieces of white bread with a slather of mayonaise and if I was really lucky, it was a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven, because my Mom was that Mom and is a phenomenal baker.
A Brief History of the Early Girl Tomato
The Early Girl tomato, a hybrid variety, made its debut in the 1970s, quickly captivating the hearts and taste buds of home gardeners and culinary enthusiasts alike. Its meteoric rise to popularity can be attributed to its remarkably early ripening, producing ripe fruits within 50-60 days of planting, a delightful surprise amidst the lingering chill of spring.
Early Girl tomatoes are not particularly fussy about their growing conditions, thriving in a wide range of climates and soil types, making them the perfect tomato plant to grow in the Pacific Northwest. Though they are most commonly found in backyard gardens across North America, where their adaptability and resilience have made them a favorite among both novice and experienced gardeners. Of all the types of tomatoes you can enjoy, I can easily say Early Girl tomatoes are the gem.
The Sweetness of Early Girl Tomatoes
The hallmark of Early Girl tomatoes is in their exceptional sweetness. Unlike their more acidic counterparts, Early Girls offer a balanced flavor profile, boasting a delicate sweetness that complements their vibrant acidity. This unique balance makes them a culinary chameleon, effortlessly adapting to a variety of dishes, from salads and sandwiches to pasta sauces and salsas. Making them a favorite in The Whole Revolution kitchen, no matter where we are living.
Beyond their culinary appeal, an added benefit to eating Early Girl tomatoes is they are nutritional powerhouses, packed with essential vitamins and minerals. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that supports immune function and collagen production. Additionally, they are rich in lycopene, a carotenoid that has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer, making this a great choice for your next pasta sauce.
Early Girl Marinara: A Culinary Gem
Early Girl tomatoes are gems in the kitchen, seamlessly adapting to a wide range of dishes. With less water content, their sweetness shines through in salads, adding a refreshing burst of flavor alongside crisp greens, cucumbers, and herbs. They lend a touch of juiciness and vibrant color to sandwiches, transforming simple lunchtime fare into a gourmet treat.
In pasta sauces, Early Girl tomatoes transform into a symphony of flavors, simmered with garlic, fresh herbs, and a touch of olive oil, creating a sauce that is both rich and refreshing. We love to make an early season tomato sauce and freeze a few jars to utilize in our fall and winter soups. Their versatility extends to salsas, chutneys, and gazpachos, where their sweetness and acidity mingle with spices and aromatics to create a symphony of flavors.
Among the countless culinary creations that Early Girl tomatoes inspire, Early Girl Homemade Marinara Sauce stands as a testament to their versatility and flavor. This classic sauce, a staple in Italian cuisine, showcases the tomatoes' sweetness and acidity, simmered with aromatic herbs and a touch of spice to create a sauce that is both comforting and complex.
Whether enjoyed over a bed of freshly cooked pasta, accompanying meatballs or chicken parmigiana, Early Girl Marinara is a sauce that embodies the essence of summer's bounty. It is a dish that evokes memories of family gatherings, laughter-filled evenings, and the simple pleasures of sharing a meal with loved ones.
Early Girl Marinara: A Homemade Sunday Sauce Recipe
Nothing beats the taste of a homemade Sunday sauce, simmered to perfection with fresh tomatoes, aromatic herbs, and a touch of sweetness. Make your own homemade tomato sauce aka homemade spaghetti sauce with this Early Girl Marinara recipe and capture the essence of that classic Italian dish. The result will bring vibrance to the flavorful sauce that's perfect for drenching over your favorite pasta, meatballs, or chicken parmigiana.
One of my favorite ways is to use the sauce is as a base for a beautiful bowl of Beanistrone. A hearty take on Minestrone soup, adding lots of legumes with Bob's Red Mill's Bean Soup Mix. Grab the recipe here: https://thewholerevolution.com/beanistrone-aka-minestrone/ and remember to substitute Early Girl Marinara for canned tomatoes to bring the tomato soup base. Easily taking this soup to the next level. Freeze a jar of this tomato sauce recipe and use it when soup season arrives. You will have zero regerts, REGRETS, I mean regrets. 😂 IYKYK
- Olive oil, 2 tablespoons
- Red onion, chopped, 2 cups
- Fresh garlic cloves, peeled and chopped, 1 head
- Fresh Early Girl tomatoes, cored and quartered, 3 pounds of tomatoes
- Cold water, ½ cup
- Kosher salt or sea salt, ½ teaspoon
- Red chili flake, ¼ teaspoon
- Dried oregano, 2 teaspoons
- Basil, tied with kitchen twine
- Pitted dates, 2
- Tomato paste, 5-7 ounces
See recipe card for quantities.
- Sauté the Aromatics: In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped cloves garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds to one minute.
- Simmer the Tomatoes: Add the tomatoes and water to the pot. Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid, leaving a slight opening for steam to escape. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Enrich the Flavor: Add salt, red chili flakes, dried oregano, dates, and tomato paste to the pot. Stir until well combined. Place the basil bunch in the center of the sauce. Cover and simmer for another 20 minutes.
- Blend for Smoothness: Remove the basil bunch. Carefully transfer the sauce in batches to a blender, ensuring heat can escape during the blending process. Blend until smooth.
- Taste and Adjust: Return the blended sauce to the pot. Season with salt to taste. Stir in a handful of fresh basil leaves.
- Tomatoes: Substitute with fresh ripe tomatoes (preferably roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, san marzano tomatoes, plum tomatoes, or grape tomatoes).
- Dates: a teaspoon honey or pure maple syrup for sweetness and a dash of balsamic vinegar for depth of flavor.
- Tomato Paste: For a thinner sauce, wait till you make pasta and add a little of the pasta water. Or add a little cold water, 2 tablespoons at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.
- Herbs: though fresh is best, feel free to substitute with dried herbs (about 1 tablespoon of dried basil)
- Spicy Marinara: Increase the amount of red chili flakes for a spicier kick.
- Roasted Tomato Marinara: Roast the tomatoes before blending for a deeper flavor.
- Meat Marinara: Add ground beef or sausage to the sauce for a richer, heartier dish.
- For the Soup Lovers: this sauce serves as a perfect base for a wonderful soup showcasing the tomatoes natural sugars.
- Heavy-bottomed pot
- Cutting board
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Blender, immersion blender, food processor, or food mill
Allow the batch of sauce to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container or glass jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months for future use.
Canning: for canning instructions I suggest heading over to Ball Mason Jars for their Canning and Preserving 101 https://www.ballmasonjars.com/canning-and-preserving-101.html
For a richer flavor, let the sauce simmer on low heat for a longer period, allowing the flavors to meld and deepen.
Yes, store-bought Early Girl tomatoes are perfectly fine for this recipe. Just make sure they are ripe and in good condition.
Yes, you can substitute dried basil for fresh basil. However, fresh basil will provide a more vibrant flavor.
Cook the sauce uncovered for a longer period to allow some of the liquid to evaporate. You can also add a small amount of cornstarch slurry by mixing cornstarch and water (1 to 2 ratio of cornstarch to water) to thicken the sauce.
Early Girl Marinara - Homemade Sunday Sauce Recipe
- 1 Stovetop
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 2 cups red onion chopped
- 1 head of garlic peeled and chopped
- 3 lbs fresh tomatoes cored and quartered
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red chili flake
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bunch basil tied with kitchen twine
- 2 pitted dates
- 5 - 7 oz tomato paste
- Place a heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat, preheat for 30 seconds.
- Add the olive oil and red onion, sauté until onion has softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and water. Bring heat down to low, place lid on pot and leave a little room for the steam to escape. Cook for 20 minutes.
- Add the seasoning, dates, tomato paste, and stir until combined into sauce. Add tied basil bunch. Cover and cook for 20 more minutes.
- Remove basil bunch. Add sauce in batch to a blender, making sure heat can escape during blending process. Blend until smooth. Return to pot. Season with salt to taste and add a handful of fresh basil leaves.
- Serve with pasta or use as a base for my Vegan Stuffed Peppers.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
- Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before use.
- Use clean cutting boards and utensils.
- Cook the sauce to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to kill any harmful bacteria.
- Store the sauce in the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below. Discard any leftover sauce after 5 days.