About the recipe
To me all pasta sauces should be made from scratch. It doesn’t matter if its tomato, alfredo, pesto, vodka, or any other kind of sauce. Fresh pasta sauce makes all the difference in the world when working with pasta. The preservatives put into these (canned) sauces edit the flavor dramatically. I like my sauce without high fructose corn syrup. What’s nice about a homemade tomato sauce is how versatile it is. You can add virtually any spice or vegetable to it (popular choices are celery, carrot, onion, garlic, bell peppers, and mushrooms). This makes tomato sauce from scratch a great healthy choice (and a good way to trick kids into eating their vegetables). Since this is my first tomato sauce being posted (and the first recipe in general) I am going to keep it basic. This garlic tomato sauce is fantastic over pasta with meatballs. If you aren’t a big garlic fan don’t worry. If you cut it down it still tastes great.
1 28oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
1 15oz Can “Tomato Sauce”
1/4 cup White Wine*
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 Cloves Garlic
1/2 Spanish Onion
1/2 tsp Fennel Seed
1 tsp Basil dry
1 tsp Oregano dry
1/2 tsp plus a pinch of Salt
1/2 tsp plus a pinch of Pepper
1/4 tsp Paprika
1/8 tsp Red Pepper Flake
Estimated Prep and Cooking Time: About 2 hours
Servings: 8 depending on how much sauce each person takes
* designates an optional ingredient.
Can of tomato sauce is in quotes because the ingredient on a list sounds like cheating. It’s not what you think. I don’t mean a can of Ragu or Prego. Next to the cans of crushed tomatoes in the supermarket you will see a cans of tomato paste and “tomato sauce”. The can of “tomato sauce” is nothing more than tomato paste and water. I used to use tomato paste + water in this recipe. I switched to this “sauce” because I like the ratio of tomato paste to water. If you taste it and it reminds you of unseasoned pizza sauce that’s because many fast food pizza places use it as a base for their pizza sauce.
Always use whatever ingredients are fresh and available. I prefer to use fresh herbs but when I went to the market today they didn’t look good. For that reason I used dry ingredients today. Likewise they didn’t have a Spanish onion so I got a sweet one.
Begin by chopping the onion and mincing the garlic. Place them to the side. Open both the can of crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce.
In a small sauté pan put the fennel seed and set the burner to medium low. This will toast the fennel. By toasting the fennel you release the oils in them making them more flavorful. Leave it toasting until the fennel becomes fragrant stirring occasionally. About 6 minutes.
Take a large sauce pot and put in enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom. Make sure the sauce pot used is not non-stick. The acidity of the tomatoes will wear away the non-stick surface. Heat until shimmering and add the onion. After a few minutes lower the heat slightly and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir occasionally.
If you browse different tomato sauce recipes online you will see a debate over the use of sugar. Many people claim using sugar in a tomato sauce recipe is blasphemy. Others say the sweetness is necessary to take some of the acidity out of the tomatoes. I personally don’t use sugar but I do think the acidity needs to be cut. Instead of using sugar I get the sweetness from the onions.
The darker the onions get (the more caramelized they become) the sweeter the sauce will be. Continue to cook the onions until they are at the desired sweetness level (I like a golden brown). Immediately add the minced garlic, toasted fennel, and red pepper flake. Cook for about 4 to 6 more minutes stirring occasionally. Do not let the garlic get too dark or it will become bitter. A light golden brown is where the garlic needs to get.
Add the can of crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and the white wine to the pot. Fill the can of crushed tomatoes with water about half way. Try to get as much of the tomatoes into the water as possible. Add the water to the pot. Add the paprika, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp basil, and 1/2 tsp parsley. Raise the temperature of the pot to medium and stir occasionally. Continue stirring occasionally until the sauce reaches a soft boil.
Once it reaches a soft boil add the other 1/2 tsp oregano, basil, and parsley. Cover the sauce and place the temperature on low to simmer. Stir the sauce every 15 minutes for an hour.
Once it has been an hour it is time to taste the sauce. Careful because it will be hot. Edit the sauce based on the taste. This is usually when I add the other 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. If it is missing flavor add more herbs as necessary. Stir and cover again. Let sit for another 15 minutes and taste it again. Continue this process until you are happy with the taste. Be careful not to over season because as the sauce cooks it will become more concentrated. Let it cook for a 15 to 30 minutes more uncovered stirring occasionally.
Once finished Serve over pasta with parmesan cheese and herbs if desired. This recipe makes a lot of sauce. I usually store the leftover sauce in a glass jar in the fridge. Tupperware will store the sauce great as well.