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Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce

September 1, 2011

I’ve written earlier about my laziness when it comes to making my own tomato sauce. (Which is a little ridiculous, given how much I love tomatoes.) It turns out that even an especially delicious tomato sauce like this one is easy to make and uses simple ingredients. The hardest part is caramelizing the onions, which took me a good 30 minutes of stirring them slowly over medium heat. Totally worth it.

After that you can basically just let the sauce simmer on its own for another 30 minutes (while you cook your pasta or get your pizza dough ready). Like I said, easy. And your kitchen will smell WONDERFUL.



Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce
(from my sister)

(makes enough for 10-12 servings of pasta, or 2-3 pizzas)

~ 2 cans diced tomatoes (or 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can pureéd tomatoes/sauce; I used one 28 oz. can of each; see note below)
~ 1 medium onion, chopped
~ garlic cloves to taste, pressed or finely chopped (use ~2-5 cloves, depending on how garlickly you like your sauces)
~ 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
~ 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
~ 2-3 Tbsp. butter (use equal parts olive oil and butter)
~ 1-2 Tbsp. red wine or balsamic vinegar (just a big splash– without measuring– will work fine)
~ 1-2 bay leaves
~ salt and pepper, to taste
~ several fresh basil leaves (optional)

How to make it:

1. Warm equal parts olive oil and butter over medium heat, then sauté the chopped onion until caramelized. (This will take up to 30 minutes of patiently stirring the onion so that it doesn’t burn– and perhaps gradually adding a little more olive oil and butter– over medium heat. You do need to let the onions start to sit occasionally for 30 seconds or so between stirrings so that they can brown, but be careful not to let them burn. This should result in onions that are soft, sweet, and golden.)

Almost caramelized onions.

2. Add finely chopped garlic and fresh rosemary, as well as salt and pepper to taste.

3. De-glaze the pan by pouring in a big splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar, and stirring for a moment. Then add the tomatoes: if you use 2 cans of diced tomatoes (or several pounds fresh chopped tomatoes, peeled, quartered, and drained of seeds and liquid), you will later need to purée your sauce in a food processor; if you use 1 can diced and 1 can puréed tomatoes, you can skip the food processing, and you’ll end up with a chunky tomato sauce.

4. Add a bay leaf or two, and optionally, some fresh basil leaves.

5. Simmer over medium/low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until the flavor is rich.

6. If using a food processor, remove bay leaves before blending. Spread on pizza or serve with pasta, and save the extra sauce by canning or freezing.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2011 5:55 pm

    Have you tried Muir Glen fire-roasted whole or diced tomatoes? The roast adds flecks of blackened tomato and a deeper flavor. I even love Muir Glen ketchup with its stronger whiff of vinegar.

  2. September 2, 2011 9:13 am

    Sandra, I’ve never tried the fire-roasted tomatoes, but now I will! Using them for tomato sauce seems like a perfect way to take advantage of all that flavor.

  3. Sandhya permalink
    September 7, 2011 4:07 am

    allison, have you checked out the awesome tomato sauce recipe on Smitten Kitchen from last week? here’s the link:

    also a supremely easy tomato sauce but, apparently, with an unexpectedly amazing taste. the trick, it seems, is to add some basil and garlice-infused olive oil to the tomato sauce at the very end.

    we’re going to try this very soon — will let you know how it turns out if interested!

  4. September 7, 2011 2:15 pm

    Sandhya, not yet, but I read that post, and it looks good!

    I’ve just recently been reading/listening to a lot of stuff about food science, and about how when you wait to add some of the seasoning until just before serving, the flavors stay fresh and more present rather than getting cooked away. (Instead of the aroma particles– which contribute to the taste– all disappearing into the air in your kitchen during the process of cooking, more of them will still be around to leap into your nose and make the food taste more flavorful when you sit down to eat it.)

    Adding the basil and garlic olive oil near the end of cooking sounds like it follows the same general principle.

    (And after learning all this, I think I’m especially going to start adding salt and lemon / lime juice much later during the cooking process– or even once the dish is on the table– than I used to. For certain dishes at least…)

    • Sandhya permalink
      September 8, 2011 1:24 am

      Yes indeed. Nowadays, when I cook Indian or Thai or Mexican, I have taken to adding half the (big bunch of) cilantro (that I always start with) in the middle of the cooking/sauteing process but save the rest to add just when the stove is turned off after cooking. The result is marvelous — the first half cooks along with the rest of the food and infuses a nice cilantro flavor to the rest of the food. But the fresh ones at the end retain all their cilantro-ness and pack quite a punch. Given the success of this technique, I’ve started doing the same with all fresh herbs — oregano, thyme, you name it.

      • September 8, 2011 5:57 pm

        Mmm, you just made me crave cilantro. I think I’ve done that same thing before, though not consistently. I really love cilantro stems, too, so sometimes I make a point to throw those in a bit earlier, in the middle of cooking, and save the leaves for just after I’ve turned off the stove.

        Do you think the same principle applies when you use Garam Masala in a dish? (I know that’s not a fresh herb, and that it’s actually a ground combination of about five different things, but I’ve still heard that you’re supposed to save it for the end, once your pot is off the burner.)

  5. September 7, 2011 2:15 pm

    p.s. oh and yes, let me know how it turns out!


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