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How to Make Perfect Tomato Sauce

Updated on October 30, 2011

Cheap Comfort Food for Cold Nights

This weekend, the East Coast got its first snow. When it gets cold, I like to make this homemade tomato sauce. It's simple,spicy, and you can impress your friends by not using Ragu.It's also extremely cheap because it uses canned tomatoes and dried spices. You can add some ground beef or sausage, but I think the sauce is delicious and hearty enough to stand alone. Pair it with some good pasta (I prefer De Cecco), Parmesan cheese, and garlic bread. My instructions below are a guide and approximation--not a recipe with measurements. Therefore, you can choose the amount of tomatoes you would like to use. Use a large can and a whole box of pasta, and you've got a meal for the family. Use a smaller can and half of the pasta, and you've got a meal for two. Add a bottle of red wine to that, and you've got a dinner date!

What You Will Need

  • A can of tomatoes, whole or crushed. You decide the size based on the amount of sauce you need to make. I love San Marzeno tomatoes. They're a little bit pricier, but not expensive--they're canned tomatoes after all! I think the San Marzeno are sweeter and a brighter red, but Hunt's will do!
  • Garlic. You might be the type to cling to garlic powder, but you'll want fresh. Not to worry--there's no chopping or grating of cloves.
  • I use these dried spices: bay leaves, red pepper, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper.
  • A few pinches of sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Pasta
  • Parmesan cheese

Now what?

I know what you're thinking--a can of tomatoes and some dried spices?? That doesn't sound special. Oh, but it is! The big secret is SLOW COOKING! That doesn't sound exciting? Well, if it doesn't, then you've never done it; you've never cooked canned tomatoes to the point of no return, that rich, deep red color. If you do, you'll see that a can of tomatoes can be something special. Trust me, slow cooking is a big deal. Fancy pants restaurants have based their menus around it! (Check out Woodfire Grill). Here's what I want you to do:

  1. Put the olive oil in the pan. Heat it.
  2. Crush the garlic with the side of a knife to remove peel (see video link below if you've never done this before.) Add to oil. The number of cloves you use is dependent on the amount of tomatoes. I love garlic, so I typically use two cloves for a smaller sauce and three or four for a larger batch.
  3. Add spices to oil. Like the garlic, use your discretion for the spices. I typically add a good pinch of each to the oil and adjust the seasoning before I serve (see my Final Note). Allow them to cook (or infuse...if you want to sound fancy pants!).
  4. Add tomatoes
  5. Add sugar. This will not make the sauce sweet. Instead, the sugar cuts the tomatoes's natural acidity and develops their flavor beautifully.
  6. Wait, wait, wait, and wait.

When the sauce is done, it should be reduced to a little less than half of the original can of tomatoes. You'll notice that the tomatoes have become much deeper in color and thicker.

Final Note

When you've sufficiently reduced your tomatoes, you should taste the sauce. Again, this doesn't sound like a big deal, but tasting the food you cook is really the most important thing you can do. Many meals would be much improved if they were just properly salted!

You can buy De Cecco pasta and San Marzeno tomatoes straight from Amazon and have them shipped to your door! Stock up for the winter!


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