Every Italian – and well, plenty of non Italians too – has their own way of making homemade tomato sauce. And I say sauce, because that’s what it is. Gravy is for turkey. 😉
Of course I say that in jest, as this is a debate heard almost daily where I live in New Jersey. My family actually calls it sugu, which is our American slang for the Italian word “sugo” that means sauce. Sugu, sugo, marinara, sauce, gravy… I don’t really care what you call it. What we can all agree on is that it’s delicious, and every home cook – Italian or not – should know how to make it from scratch.
Why open up a jar of sauce when it’s so easy to make it from scratch? If you watch my video, you’ll see just how simple it is. Contrary to popular belief, a proper tomato sauce doesn’t need to simmer on the stove all day. Really, a good 20-30 minutes is all it needs. I always opt to use canned tomatoes, as opposed to fresh, when I make my sauce. I make a sauce out of fresh tomatoes when they’re ripe in the summer, but it has a completely different taste and feel. Canned tomatoes are available year round and are always consistent in both flavor and texture. Because they’re picked at their peak of ripeness, canned tomatoes are always packed with flavor and nutrition. And, believe it or not, the lycopene in canned tomatoes is actually more bioavailable than in fresh.
For more information about canned tomatoes and other tomato products, check out my friend’s at the Tomato Wellness Council, and let me know how you like to make your sauce!
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- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 small-medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 1 can whole peeled tomatoes, or substitute crushed tomatoes
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup water
- salt, to taste, pepper is optional (I leave it out)
- pinch of sugar, only if needed
- Heat a saucepan over medium heat and warm up the olive oil. Saute the onions for about two to three minutes, or until they start to turn translucent. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, then continue cooking for an additional two to three minutes, or until they've cooked down a bit. Lower the heat as needed, as you don't want the vegetables to brown at all.
- Pour in the canned tomatoes and crush them with a wooden spoon. You can puree them with an immersion blender prior to adding them to the pan, or use crushed tomatoes, but I prefer it to be a bit more textured. Stir in the tomato paste and bay leaf, then add water to the empty tomato can, swirl it around to gather the remaining tomato sauce and pour it into the pan. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
- Season with salt, then taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed. I prefer mine without pepper, but by all means add it in if you like. If it's too thick, you can add a little more water to thin it out, but be sure to adjust the seasoning accordingly. If it tastes too acidic, you can add a pinch of sugar, but not too much, just to balance it out. If it's too thin, remove the lid and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes to allow some of the water to evaporate.
- Toss with pasta, use in your favorite recipe, or ladle it into a jar for later use. Sauce will keep refrigerated for up to one week.