Great on pizza, pasta or along with meat, fresh tomato sauce is an essential kitchen staple that is easy to prepare and well worth the time.
Having been raised on the jars of ready-made sauce I, for many years, simply bought something like Ragu and used that (with a generous amount of basil, oregano and garlic added) for my Italian dishes. I always told myself that it was just fine and was quick and easy compared to what I envisioned as a big production that would taste roughly the same. After making my own sauce, I found out pretty quickly how wrong I was.
Making your own tomato sauce does take time, but it is not difficult. There are surprisingly very few steps involved to make a very serviceable homemade sauce that will have a much more natural taste than the manufactured products do.
My tomato sauce recipe is one that I have created by combining parts of other recipes and adding in some of my own ideas. Of course, it starts with the tomato. Fresh, garden grown or farmers’ market tomatoes are obviously the best but they also take the most work to prepare. For fresh tomatoes, just blanch in boiling water and the skin will fall right off. Canned tomatoes are also workable, but be sure to find a good quality brand without added junk.
The quantity listed below is for a large amount of sauce, roughly enough for 8 people. Make sure the pot you use is large enough and holds a nice, even simmer. I like to use a Le Creuset dutch oven since it has a nice thick construction and goes right in the fridge after cooking and cooling. You may also freeze containers for later use.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
- About 6-8 medium sized tomatoes, peeled, or 6 cans (14 oz) quality whole tomatoes
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 7 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cans (6 oz) tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons fresh basil
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup dark red wine (Burgundy or Lambrusco work well)
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is translucent.
- Pour in the wine and turn heat up for about a minute to boil off the alcohol.
- Add in the tomatoes, salt, sugar and bay leaves. Stir everything around a little and cover. Let simmer on low heat about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After 90 minutes, the tomatoes should have broken down considerably. If you used whole tomatoes there will still be large chunks. If you used cans of diced tomatoes, there might not be many chunks but there should be some. At this point, if you want a chunky sauce, then leave it be and let it continue cooking. However if you want a less chunky sauce (like me) then use an immersion blender if you have one to blend the chunks.
- After blending (if you choose to) add in the tomato paste, basil, oregano and pepper. Stir everything around very well, making sure the tomato paste is distributed throughout the sauce and not in a giant clump in the middle.
- Cover it again and let cook on low for another 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Check the sauce to see if the consistency is where you want it. Some people like thick sauce, others like thinner. The longer the sauce cooks, the thicker it will get. So if it is not thick enough for you, let it cook longer. It is almost impossible to cook this too long. It may take a couple of hours to get it where you like it.
- Once you have the sauce at the right thickness, taste it and season carefully with salt and pepper.
Thanks to Jared Tague for this post.
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