Easy Pasta Sauce. It’s so easy to make homemade tomato sauce, you’ll (probably) never buy the stuff in the jar again. Great with pasta, grilled sausages, polenta, and more.
I’m Italian-American. So I don’t even have to tell you that I grew up in a house where tomato sauce was regularly made from scratch. But I’ll tell you anyway: At home, I never ate store-bought sauce during my childhood. Ever.
During those Ragu commercials, where they declared “It’s in there!”, my mom would scoff as if she’d been personally offended by the commercial.
Her sauce was amazing. It cooked for hours and, let me tell you, was the best sauce most folks had ever tried. (Unless they too were Italian-American, then their mother’s or grandmother’s or father’s sauce was the best sauce they’d ever tried.)
The recipe I’m sharing today is not my mother’s sauce.
This tomato sauce cooks in less than an hour but, let me tell you, it’s good.
How good is it?
Glad you asked! It’s so good that my mom likes it.
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If you’re in the habit of buying expensive sauce from a jar, this recipe might just help you break that spendy habit.
All you need is a few ingredients and a bit of time.
This recipe uses crushed tomatoes. This is key for this sauce. Diced tomatoes work but the consistency of the sauce won’t be the same. Crushed tomatoes tend to vary in thickness from brand to brand and sometimes from season to season. Start the sauce by adding 1/4 cup of water. If your sauce seems thick, add a little more water.
Cook’s Tip: The sauce thickens as it cooks. When you start the sauce, you want it thinner than you want the finished sauce.
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic bring a lot of flavor to the sauce. Use one medium onion and three to five cloves of garlic. Yes. You read that right. Three to five cloves. Why the range? If the cloves are small, use more.
This makes a somewhat chunky pasta sauce. The consistency comes mainly from the diced onions. I roughly chop them. If you want a silky smooth sauce, you’ve got three options:
- Dice the onions very finely.
- Dice the onions in a food processor until they’re almost a paste.
- Puree the sauce after it’s finished cooking.
I don’t know when I started adding a pat of butter to my sauce but I did and, woah, it makes a difference. A mere pat of butter adds a roundness to the sauce that you’ll love.
I know. I know. All the cool culinary snobs say that dried herbs don’t add any flavor. Do you know what I say? ‘Eff em. Seriously. Buy a good dried basil and you’ll be fine. Is dried the same as fresh? Nope! But it will add flavor.
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An easy way to know if the dried basil you’re using is good is to smell it. Even without rubbing it between your fingers, you should be able to detect a summery-basil smell. If you can’t smell anything, it’s probably time to buy a new jar.
This sauce only requires 10 minutes of simmering. Seriously. For a deeper flavor, cook it longer, up to one hour. The longer you cook the sauce, the thicker it gets. Be sure to stir it occasionally and add additional water as needed.
Salt, Pepper, and Other Good Flavors
Think of these ingredients as a starting point. Sometimes you might want to add a pinch more salt or a sprinkle of additional red pepper flakes. Other times, you might want to stir in some additional herbs, like oregano, or add freshly grated parmesan at the end of cooking. You can do that with this sauce. It’s yours. Have fun with it!
Can I use this sauce for pizza?
Sure! I prefer a thick sauce for pizza; so I’d suggest you cook it until thick before using it on pizza.
How do I freeze tomato sauce?
Allow the sauce to cool completely. Place into a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Heat thoroughly before serving. Adjust consistency as needed.
Can I use fresh tomatoes?
I wouldn’t. Fresh tomatoes are amazing. But this recipe was developed for canned tomatoes.
Can I can this sauce?
Nope! It’s not an approved recipe for canning.
Can I omit the sugar?
Absolutely! The 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar enhances the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and, believe it or not, does make a difference. If you want to leave it out, go ahead.