Here’s my standard tomato sauce recipe. I got this from my mother who was an excellent cook. I’ve changed a few things over the years, adding touches of my own and some embellishments from my cousins in Italy.
This sauce can be used on most anything that requires Italian tomato sauce. It’s great to use when making chicken, beef or veal parmesan (which I’ll write about later in another post). For pasta, I often choose to make a much lighter sauce without the meat. I’ll write about that another time. However, this works well on pasta too.
Inside Tips: Something to Think About While Making a Good Tomato Sauce
Making a good tomato sauce is an art, not a science. You have to continuously taste it while it cooks and then decide if it needs a little more of this or little more of that. Sometimes it may need only a tsp. of basil, other times, it may need more than twice that. So what follows is a good guide, but follow your taste buds and have fun.
When I cook, I like to think about music. I often have music playing (and a glass of wine poured) but I’m not talking now about the music I’m listening to. Instead I like to think about bass notes and treble notes or low notes and high notes.
Different flavors elicit different types of notes. Example: salt would be a high note and black pepper would be a low note or bass note. When cooking a red sauce, I often strive to have the flavors balanced between high and low. And adding dried oregano pushes the sauce into the high-note territory and adding dried basil takes it down into the bass category.
You also have to be careful about making it too bitter or too sweet. The red wine, depending on what type you use, can make the sauce a little bitter. And if you choose to use carrots, you won’t need to add the optional sugar, as the carrots usually make the sauce sweet enough.
So stir and taste and ask yourself, is it on the high-note side or the low-note side? And then adjust the seasonings as needed. Everyone has their own opinion on what the perfect red sauce is, so use your judgement, make it to your liking, and you can’t go wrong.
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Tomato Sauce (Basic Recipe)
It's not difficult to make this sauce, but you do need to think about it and pay attention to the flavors by continuously tasting it.
- Large onion (1, chopped fine)
- Carrots (2, chopped fine) (optional)
- Celery (2 stalks, chopped fine) (optional)
- Italian sausages (2, sweet, not hot)
- Kitchen Ready Tomatoes (1 28 oz. can)
- Tomato Paste (1/2 – 1 small can, plus 1 small can of cold water)
- Olive oil (2-3 tbsp.)
- Salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste. A shot of tabasco (optional)
- Splash of red wine (optional, about 1/4 cup)
- Sugar (optional, about 1/2 tsp.)
- Butter (1-2 tbsp)
- Nutmeg (just a speck, about 1/8th of a teaspoon.)
- Step 1 In a medium to large pot, cook the onions over medium-high heat in olive oil until translucent (not brown).
- Step 2 If desired, add the carrots and celery and cook until tender.
- Step 3 Crumble and add the sausages. Cook until brown.
- Step 4 Add the can of tomatoes. Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides.
- Step 5 Add tomato paste and one can of water. Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides.
- Step 6 Add spices and tabasco (if desired). Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides.
- Step 7 Cook for about 20 minutes to 1/2 hour on low heat, partially covered, stirring occasionally.
- Step 8 Taste periodically and add more spices if necessary, but remember, the longer you cook it, the stronger the flavor of the spices will be.
- Step 9 Add the splash of red wine (optional) and stir. Cook for another 20 minutes to 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and if you like, you can add a 1/2 tsp. of sugar.
- Step 10 Turn the heat off and add the butter. Add the nutmeg and gently stir until the butter melts. Cover the pot and let it sit until you’re ready to use it.