Winter tomato sauce can be full of flavor

Most recipes for tomato sauce expect you to have beautiful red and juicy tomatoes on hand. This may be possible in the summer months when tomatoes are heavy on the vine and the fruit is used in every way imaginable. In the winter fresh tomatoes that will make a delicious sauce just can't be found.

Canned tomatoes are an adequate substitute, especially if they are the imported Italian plum tomatoes, but a sauce made with these still needs an extra boost of flavor.

In the following recipe, minced vegetables -- onion, carrot, celery, and garlic -- add flavor, and beef broth is used instead of water. As with any sauce, taste as you go along and adjust the herbs and seasonings accordingly. Winter Tomato Sauce 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 cup onion, minced 1/2 cup carrot, minced 1/4 cup celery, minced 1 garlic clove, minced 1-pound can plum tomatoes 1 cup beef broth 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1/2 teaspoon dried basil 1/2 teaspoon sugar 6 sprigs parsley 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme 1 bay leaf Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until softened. In a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade, puree tomatoes, including the juice. Add puree to the saucepan.

Stir in beef broth, tomato paste, basil, and sugar. Tie parsley, thyme, and bay leaf in a cheesecloth bag and add to sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook at a bare simmer for 1 hour. Discard cheesecloth bag and puree through the fine disk of a food mill into a bowl. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce.

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