What’s on your grocery list? Basic tomato sauce for Pasta

The other day I realized we were out of jarred tomato pasta sauce. So I did the first thing I could thing of – write it on the list. And there it sat on the list, waiting for the next trip out. But I’d catch myself wondering why I didn’t just figure out how to make one I liked, rather than risk disappointment from the grocery store. The last two we’d tried were awful. AWFUL.
It couldn’t be that hard, right? It’s just tomatoes, and a few flavoring ingredients, right? And if you have any love for Costco, you probably have boxes of cans of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce in your basement, and if you don’t you will soon, because they are ridiculously cheap and very versatile. Look out for the coupons for the diced tomatoes throughout the year, and you can get some great deals for stocking up.
About a week ago, I made my first batch, and Matt gave it an 8 on a scale of 10 for basic marinara. I added other vegetables – sauteed onions and mushrooms – after making the sauce. And then, yesterday, I made a mondo batch of sauce with a friend for freezing – we’re talking a total of 14 quarts between us. Both were delicious, so I will include both recipes. The first one was probably easier, and the second one had more vegetables and made A LOT of sauce, which is now freezing up nicely.
And to prove that even the second one with more ingredients was still easy, you will see that my friend Charlene did most of it with a 5-month old on her hip, with our two toddlers running around leaving destruction in their paths. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of the first batch, but it’s so easy and so fast, and I’ll include my modifications in [brackets] to show how flexible this recipe is.

Quick Tomato Sauce
from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook [ATKFC]
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced [pressed in garlic press]
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes [1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, pureed + 1 14.5-oz (or so) can tomato sauce]
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
3 T. minced fresh basil [1 1/2 t. Italian seasoning]
[1/8-1/4 t. crushed red pepper]
1/4 t. sugar [honey]

1. Cook the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15-20 minutes.
2. Stir in the basil [Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper] & sugar [honey]. Season with salt to taste.
3. When tossing the sauce with pasta, add some of the pasta cooking water to loosen the consistency of the sauce.
MONDO batch of Tomato Sauce
makes 7 quarts
If you have fresh tomatoes and fresh herbs, by all means use them, but fresh tomatoes will take a lot longer to cook down.

1/4 – 1/2 c. olive oil
7 onions, diced small
7 carrots, diced small
7 stalks celery, diced small
14 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 – 2 T. Italian seasoning
1/2 – 1 t. crushed red pepper
2 #10 cans crushed tomatoes from Costco [106-oz each for $2.69]
1 5-oz can tomato paste
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1-2 t. honey, to taste

1. Vegetables can be treated one of two ways. I like mine chunky, so I chopped all of mine with a knife. Charlene liked her’s a bit more smooth, so she threw them all in the food processor, processing each vegetable separately, adding them to the pot after round.
2. Heat oil in giant pot over medium to medium high heat. Add carrots, onions, and celery, and let gently cook until soft and fragrant, 10 minutes. If you want more moisture, cover it during this time, but if you want a more caramelized flavor, leave the lid off. I did a little of both. Add the garlic and seasonings and let cook one more minute.
3. Add tomatoes as gently as you can, but you might end up splashing. That’s normal. I actually used 1 #10 can, 2 quarts of my homemade crushed tomatoes, and 2 cans diced tomatoes. Add tomato paste, and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat to keep it at a low, gentle simmer. Let the whole mess simmer for 15-20 minutes, then add salt, pepper, and honey to taste. The honey helps mellow the acidity of the tomatoes. Adjust seasonings to your liking. You may let this continue to simmer until you are happy with the consistency, or you can be done here.
5. Cover and let cool. When cooled enough, pour into either 1-qt freezer bags or storage containers. I like bags, because they freeze pretty flat, are easily identifiable, and stack nicely in my freezer. Defrost and use like any other sauce.

4 thoughts on “What’s on your grocery list? Basic tomato sauce for Pasta

  1. Wow, GREAT post! I’m big into emergency preparedness and it looks like most of the ingredients on the quick tomatoe sauce can be made from what’s in my food storage. Thanks for sharing.

    I posted a pasta sauce recipe yesterday as well – SUPER easy and quite good considering there’s only 3 ingredients. Feel free to try it out.


  2. Pingback: Mmm . . . this makes your house smell so good « Good Clean Food

  3. Made the big sauce today – used a 16-quart stock pot, which reduced the splatter-when-pouring effect. Found all of my small onions and shallots (only had 4 onions and a Costco bag of shallots) really tedious. I imagine that using a few of Costco’s huge onions would reduce that peeling and chopping time quite a bit. The honey really made a difference – found it was bitter to my taste until then. Thanks for the recipe. I used tomato puree because my Costco didn’t have crushed tomatoes. I would think that the crushed tomatoes would be really good for the sauce. Now I’m just waiting to cool and load the sauce into freezer bags.

  4. Pingback: Growing up? « Alchemy in Alameda

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