Beyond Basic Tomato Sauce

I just emailed Jay my recipe for super basic tomato sauce so he can prepare it while I’m at work today (I should note here that this is about the only benefit of the overnight job site coverage he’s been doing this week). This is a blank-slate kinda tomato sauce. I use it as a base for dishes involving tomato sauce, like baked pasta dishes, and it can be elaborated upon or embellished as you wish.

My sauce is distantly derived from a recipe in Arthur Schwartz’s Naples at Table, which was originally recommended by my friend Sheena, and which you should really own if you like to cook Italian food. If you’ve never heard of Arthur Schwartz, well, I don’t know what to say, except that you obviously didn’t grow up with my mother, who is an “Awthuh” devotee from back when he was on WOR (“Radio 710! W-OOOOOOOO-RRRRRR!”).

Beyond Basic Tomato Sauce

3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced (about 1/4 cup when you’re done chopping)
2 big cans tomatoes (can be diced or whole, but I don’t usually used pureed)
1 smaller can fire-roasted tomatoes*
approx. 1/2 can tomato paste
salt & pepper
optional: approx. 1/2 cup red wine
optional: 1 onion, diced, or whatever quantity you prefer

optional: basil

Heat a heavy, deep pot (maybe use the Dutch oven) over medium high heat. Add about two tablespoons olive oil (regular, not extra virgin) and heat for a minute or so. Add garlic, and onions if you are using them. If using garlic only, cook, stirring often, until it becomes aromatic and starts to look golden, about a minute. If using onions, cook for a few minutes until the onions start to soften.

Add tomatoes and stir. If you used whole tomatoes, break them up with the spoon.**

Add tomato paste, and wine if you choose to use it, and stir to integrate. Stir in salt and pepper.

Lower the heat a teensy bit and simmer, stirring every so often, for an hour or so or until it looks saucy. Stir in basil in the last few minutes of cooking if you are using it.

*I am a recent convert to fire-roasted canned tomatoes. I used them out of desperation one day when we were running low on tomatoes. Jay had them sitting around and I’d been making disparaging remarks about them. I ended up liking them a lot–they do add a nice roasted flavor to the sauce–and had to sheepishly admit as much to Jay. Not that he’d ever gloat about being right or anything.

**Recipes always say to break up tomatoes with “the back of the spoon,” but I prefer to slice the tomatoes by attacking them with the side of the spoon. You’ll just end up squirting yourself if you use the back.

One Response to “Beyond Basic Tomato Sauce”
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  1. […] Yesterday I talked about deputizing Jay to make a vat of tomato sauce while I was at work. Now I’m going to talk about what I did with the sauce. I am not going to talk about how Jay confessed to adding “a pinch” of sugar to the sauce, because I’m trying to forget that even happened. The sauce was good, I’m just not a sugar-in-sauce person. […]

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