Sweet-tart, crimson red, lightly herbal layer slathered on the bottom of a pizza crust, ladled over hearty meatballs or embedded between chewy, cheesy bits of pasta, how versatile and heart-warming is a home-made tomato sauce? It’s also one of the easiest things to pull together and is perfect to have on hand for a quick supper. Last Friday, for my impromptu pizza party using Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough, I whipped up a batch of my version of this recipe for Easy Tomato Sauce.
While it would be better for me to process and can my own tomatoes each summer to be truly locavore and authentic about making this, I just have never been able to master that skill. With the right ingredients, however, this sauce is miles away from the cloying, way-too-sweet, over-processed jars of stuff that sit on supermarket shelves. Canned tomatoes are one option, but I have found that using Pomi Italian boxed tomatoes works really well in this recipe (warning: the video starts when you click on the link) as they are just tomatoes, nothing else, which allows me to control all sorts of flavor factors. With a great blank canvas with which to start, it’s easy to see why everything I’ve made with them turns out tasting so well.
Easy Tomato Sauce
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Serving Size: a little over 4 cups of sauce
2 cloves Garlic, sliced (green shoots removed)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil (can be extra virgin)
1 box Pomi strained tomatoes
1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp. Sugar
Other seasonings depending upon the dish: Dried Oregano, Dried Basil, Dried Parsley, Red Pepper Flakes
Slice garlic and put into a Dutch oven or deep saucepan with the olive oil. Turn the heat on low and gently let the garlic simmer in the oil for about 3 minutes, making sure that the garlic doesn’t burn or turn brown. When the first piece of garlic turns a hint of tan, start to remove all the garlic from the pan. The garlic is just supposed to perfume the oil.
You can discard the garlic or keep it to add to the final dish, as you wish. Next, with the oil still on a very low heat setting, add the box of strained tomatoes. The oil and tomatoes will sizzle when they first meet in the pan, so be careful of splatters. To avoid this, pour the box in quickly and give the mixture a little stir with a wooden spoon.
Do the same with the chopped tomatoes, making sure to give the mixture a stir to incorporate everything. I like to add chopped tomatoes to give the sauce a bit of texture. This also adds a little extra liquid to cook down into the sauce.
Then, turn the heat to medium and let the mixture cook for about 30 minutes, until it has thickened, stirring it every few minutes. If you would like, you can add a bit of water, but I prefer just to let the heat and time work their magic to bring the sauce together.
After 30 minutes, you’ll have a thick, rich sauce. It will taste of tomatoes with a bare, mere hint of the garlic oil. This is the blank canvas to which to add seasonings. I recommend starting with 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/8 tsp. of ground black pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Taste. Adjust the seasonings to your preference by adding more of any of the above.
The rest of the seasonings to be added in are really up to you, your tastebuds, and what you’ll be doing with the sauce. As I was making pizza last Friday, I added in 1/4 tsp. of red pepper flakes and 1 tsp. of dried oregano. I’m a huge proponent of using fresh herbs most of the time, but I’ve found that in tomato-based sauces, dried herbs stand up and stand out much better against the aggressive nature of the acidic tomatoes. Now you have a base sauce from which to make numerous dinner possibilities.