This is my go to tomato sauce recipe. I use it for lasagna, spaghetti and anything else calling for tomato sauce.
I learned how to make it many years ago on a culinary trip to Italy. We attended a cooking class in Sorento where we made this.
There are two 'secrets' for making this sauce:
- Use authentic San Marano canned tomatoes. They are naturally sweet and so you do not need to add any sugar or carrots like some other recipes call for.
- Add a can of water to the pot when you simmer it. This was counter intuitive to me as I thought it would make the sauce very thin however it allowed the tomatoes to break down and thicken the sauce.
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Step 1: Ingredients
1 28 oz can peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes
1 14 oz can tomato sauce (organic if available)
4 ounces of onion (1/2 medium)
4 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon each of fresh basil, parsley and oregano (Note: substitute 1 teaspoon of dried if fresh not available)
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Step 2: Prep the Ingredients
Chop the onion and garlic - see the pictures to get an idea of the size of the pieces.
The onion pieces are roughly 1/4 to 1/2 inch while the garlic pieces are 1/8 inch.
Step 3: Sauté the Onion and Garlic
In a large pot (e.g., dutch oven), heat some olive oil over medium heat. You want a nice layer of oil on the bottom of the pot - not too much just enough to coat it when you tip it around.
Add the onion and cook for 5 - 10 minutes until they are getting soft and translucent.
Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and stir around until you get the nice aroma of the garlic - about 1 or 2 minutes.
Note - a pinch of crushed red pepper is around 1/8 teaspoon - use more or less depending on how spicy you would like the sauce.
Step 4: Add Tomatoes and Cook
Add the whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes and break them up with a heavy spoon or a masher of some sort. I use a potato masher.
Note - Smash the whole tomatoes a little or a lot depending on how smooth or chunky you prefer your sauce.
Add the tomato sauce. Now fill up the tomato sauce can with water and put some in the bigger can to swish it around and get all the tomato bits out of it. Add the water to the pot and bring to a good simmer - see the picture for when it is simmering.
Add some salt - a good teaspoon at this point is good enough.
Now add any dried herbs if you are using them otherwise wait until near the end to add fresh herbs.
Once the sauce is simmering, do not stir and let it bubble for a good 25 minutes then add the fresh herbs if you are using them and let it simmer for an additional 15 minutes. If you like the consistency at this point, you are done! Otherwise you can let it simmer longer until it is as thick / thin as you want.
Taste and adjust seasoning - add pepper and more salt if needed.