Croatian Tomato Salsa (pronounced: shalsha; “sh” like in words “sugar” or “shut”) is the best pasta sauce on the face of the Earth. I dare do say it because I have never met a person who didn’t like it. Even people who don’t eat fresh tomatoes or ketchup still like Tomato Salsa (Salsa di pomodoro).
It is a traditional dish made everywhere along Croatian coast. Every family has its own favorite recipe.
Some make it with onions and garlic, using different herbs like basil, parsley, rosemary etc. In my family salsa was always made with onion, garlic and parsley. But, a few years ago my mother and I watched a lady from the island of Hvar prepare it with garlic only (no onion). We tried it and liked it so much that we never went back to our own recipe.
It is hard to give exact recipe for salsa because each batch tends to be different, depending upon the quality of tomatoes you use. Tomatoes we see in supermarkets are usually not good to make salsa because they are too hard and not ripe enough. If you can buy tomatoes on a farmers market, look for deep red ones, a little bit soft, sweet and full of “flesh” (less seeds). If supermarket tomatoes are all you can get, let them sit on your counter or other warm place for a few days to become dark red (though I cannot guarantee the final result).
Some people are intimidated with salsa and never dare to cook it because they think it is hard to make.
Actually, salsa is very simple to prepare, only it is not quick. It needs to be cooked for 1-2 hours. You can do something else while salsa is cooking, just be sure to stir it from time to time.
Salsa is served with pasta, cooked meat or even as a crostini spread or dip. It can be added to various other meals, like stews and sauces, to improve their taste. I used it in my Tortellini al Forno recipe:
It can be canned or frozen. I usually make a large batch of it and freeze it in ziploc bags. I have never tried canning Tomato Salsa so I cannot help you with that. Maybe some day I’ll try that too.
Making your own homemade Tomato Salsa is a great way to preserve summer aroma for long winter days.
- 2 kg (4.4 lb) fresh tomatoes very ripe
- 5-6 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp sugar or to taste
- salt black pepper
- 1/2 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped
To easily peel the tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop several tomatoes into the boiling water. Watch for their skins to start to split, about 1 minute, then transfer them to the ice water bath. Use a paring knife to peel back the tomato skins. Roughly chop the tomatoes.
Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add garlic and tomatoes. Simmer on low heat, uncovered, until liquid evaporates and you get thickness that you like. It will take at least 1 hour. Stir salsa from time to time to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot.
If too acidic to taste, add more sugar. Season with salt, pepper and parsley.