The LBD of tomato sauce. In a thicker state, it’s the most savory pizza sauce. And then, with a little water or wine, it becomes a rich, pasta sauce or even a soup base. Love.
This is a sauce that you can do just about anything with. (Ok – for you teachers – I know that statement isn’t grammatically correct.) But it’s true whether it ends with a preposition or not. Tomato sauce or “red sauce” as my kids call it (or gravy as some of you might call it) is a staple at our house. When I make it, I usually double or triple it because we like things saucy around here. In Italy, they sauce things gently to allow the pasta, meat or star ingredient to shine ,which I respect and totally agree with (yes, I did the preposition thing again). In our house, we have our own rules one of which involves lots of sauce to be sopped up with lots of bread at the end of the meal. It’s a meal followed by a sauce and bread chaser.
Alright on with the sauce. Start with the best canned tomatoes you can find and afford. (If you have a garden, go for it! Peel those babies and use them in the sauce.) I buy Italian tomatoes that call out “San Marzano” right on the label because the best tomatoes come from San Marzano which is right outside of Naples. San Marzano tomatoes are sweeter, have less acid and fewer seeds making them perfect for sauce.
Place the tomatoes in a blender and pulse a few times until you get the texture you want. The longer you run the blender, the thinner the sauce will start out to be. I like it a little chunkier but completely embrace those who don’t. You get to choose!
Next, heat up your olive oil over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Give it a chance to soften and get a good tan. You want it golden but not too dark. At this point, add the garlic for just a bit. You are flavoring the oil and onion but you don’t want to brown the garlic. I always add more garlic because it’s garlic and life is short. If you don’t love it, don’t put as much. Just promise me you won’t leave it out all together. And if you do, don’t tell me.
Time to add some tomato paste. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of this because it’s not a pretty sight. You want to stir it around and eventually, the paste will relax with a big old sigh into the onions and garlic. Once you like the look of it, lower the heat and then add your seasonings including the sugar. You want the sugar to slightly caramelize but not burn. Sometimes, I even take the pan off the heat for this step because it’s plenty hot.
Ok, add the pureed tomatoes and time to take a breather. Let the sauce come to heat and lower to a simmer for about 45 minutes. Sometimes, I add some fresh basil if I have some. Taste the sauce throughout the cooking to adjust the seasoning and heat.
Go cook up some pasta or allow it to thicken up and use it for pizza. Or drink it out of the bottom of the bowl. I won’t judge. And if you make it, let me know in the comments below especially if you have any questions!
Make the recipe as is
For a crowd:
Double or triple the ingredients is ok but don’t double the salt or the crushed red pepper. Start with 1.5 ratio if doubling the recipe and go from there. Better to salt as you go and for the crushed red pepper, the heat intensifies over time. Unless you want an arrabiata sauce, then go for the heat!
If you find the sauce isn’t as well-rounded in flavor or is on the hotter side, add a little water to the sauce along with a pat or two of butter. The taste can vary depending on your tomato of choice.
Tomato Sauce #2
The base sauce for all tomato sauces.
- 1 28 oz can whole, peeled Italian tomatoes preferably San Marzano
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped, 1/2 cup
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 oz tomato paste or 1/2 of a 6 oz can
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- fresh basil optional
- crushed red pepper to taste - try 1/4 teaspoon to start if you like heat.
Place tomatoes in a blender with their juices and blend until desired consistency reached.
Heat olive oil in a 4qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent and rich in color, about 5 minutes. Briefly add garlic for 30 seconds until you smell it.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomato paste. Swirl around until softened and combined with onions about 2 minutes. Add spices ending with sugar and quickly combine because you don’t want the sugar to burn but to caramelize just a bit.
Quickly add pureed tomatoes and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes. The sauce will thicken which is what you want. You are looking for a rich, red, sauce with kick-butt flavor. From here you have a couple of choices: you can leave it as it and use it w/meat or as a pizza sauce. You can thin with water or red wine (over heat -it's best if you decide this about 1/2 through the cooking time) and use as a sauce for pasta or base for soup. You can cook even further down and use as dipping sauce for focaccia or even your favorite appetizer (I see you, frozen mozzarella stick lovers!).