As someone that truly enjoys cooking and making homemade meals, I believe that one of the essential foods that every cook should have is a recipe for tomato sauce. This sauce can be used in so many amazing dishes other than just pasta and meatballs. After making several batches of sauce, I finally settled on a recipe that is simple, yet effective, inexpensive, and above all else, delicious!
The difference between a homemade tomato sauce and a store-bought version is often times incredible. Using fresh ingredients and putting a little bit of labor into something can truly produce a rewarding result. As long as you can set aside about 15 minutes for prepping and roughly 1.5 hours of your time to stay in the kitchen area of your home, you too can cook up an easy and delicious tomato sauce to use for a variety of dishes!
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Step 1: Ingredients and Tools + Prep
- 3 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
- 1 small-medium size yellow onion
- 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic (I use more since I am a garlic lover)
- 2 TBSP of sugar
- 1 TBSP of dried oregano
- 1TBSP of dried basil leaves
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 2 TSP of crushed red pepper (more if you like a bit of heat)
- 3-4 TSP of salt
- 1-2 TSP of black pepper
- Olive oil
- Fresh basil (highly suggested)
- Large cooking pot
- Sharpened kitchen knife
- Cutting board
- Can opener
- Spatula or wooden spoon
- Measuring spoons
Prep + Cooking Time:
15-20 minutes for prepping
1.5 hours (at least) for cooking
Step 2: Dice the Onion Into Small Pieces
Gather the yellow onion and use your knife and cutting board to dice it into small pieces. Having a sharp knife is CRITICAL in this step, as a dull blade could lead to lack of control over the knife. The easiest method, in my opinion, to dicing an onion is as follows:
- Cut off the bottom of the onion to create a flat surface for it to stand on
- Slice in half
- Remove the paper and outer layer of both halves
- Place one half flat side down, and make parallel cuts with the root at the top
- Starting at the bottom of the half, make 2-3 sideways cuts going up
- With fingers safely out of harms way, make cuts that are perpendicular to the root of the onion
- Repeat steps 4-6 with the second half
This should leave you with a finely diced onion ideal for sautéing.
Step 3: Cooking the Onions
Put a large pot on the stove, and place over medium-high heat. Add roughly 3-4 tbsp of olive oil into the pan and allow it to heat up for a minute or two. More oil will be added to the sauce in a later step, however, this is just to get the onions going. Once the oil is hot enough, place the diced onion in and stir, then let cook for about 2 minutes on medium-high heat. After the 2 minutes has passed, reduce the heat down to medium-low, add in a couple of teaspoons of salt, as well as the crushed red pepper. Stir these occasionally for the next 10-15 minutes and let them sauté well. You likely will need to reduce the heat to a lower setting in order to prevent the onions from burning.
Step 4: Preparing the Garlic
Peel all of the garlic cloves that you are going to use. 3-4 cloves is typical for this amount of sauce, however, use as much or as little as you like. The easiest way, in my opinion, to peel a garlic clove is to put it on a cutting board, place the flat side of a knife on the clove, and firmly hit the knife with your hand. You should use enough force to separate the skin, however you also should not smash the clove completely. You then want to finely chop all of the cloves.
Step 5: Adding Garlic and Finishing the Mix
About 5-7 minutes after the onions have been cooking, make sure the heat has been reduced to low/medium-low if you have not already, and throw in the garlic to the mix. Keep stirring occasionally for the remaining 6-8 minutes or so. The mixture should look similar to the picture above. The onions should be nice and caramelized, as this is what gives this tomato sauce it's rich flavor. Keep in mind that if garlic burns, it becomes very bitter, which is why it is critical to let the onions cook for a few minutes first, and ensure that the heat on the stove is not too high.
Step 6: Preparing the Crushed Tomatoes
While the onions are cooking, or even before you begin cooking them if it is easier, gather all of the cans of crushed tomatoes and open them with a can opener. If you have little or zero experience using a standard can opener, they can be tricky at first. You want to open the jaws and grip the edge of the can between the two rotating blades. Make sure the top of the can has been punctured, and use the handle to rotate and open the can, enough to be able to at least pour out the contents.
Step 7: Adding the Tomatoes
After the onion and garlic mixture has cooked and reduced, add all of the crushed tomatoes CAREFULLY to the pot. The next step, which I believe is crucial, is to fill one of the empty crushed tomato cans with water, and move the can around in order to clean the remaining contents from the sides of the can. Use that water and pour it into the other can, and repeat the process for the remaining cans. Finally, add the water to the pot.
Step 8: Adding the Remaining Ingredients
After the water has been added, throw in all of the herbs, as well as the sugar, black pepper, remaining salt, and roughly 4 more tbsp of olive oil. Stir the entire pot of sauce very well in order to incorporate everything. With the heat still on a medium-low setting, allow the sauce to come to a simmer. This step may take a couple of minutes.
Step 9: Allow the Sauce to Simmer Away
After everything has been mixed and the sauce has come up to a simmer, then the real process begins. Let the sauce cook for at least 1.5 hours, or longer if desired. It is critical to stir the sauce occasionally, at least every 5-10 minutes or so, and be careful when doing so as it will be hot! You may be tempted to put the stove on a higher setting, however, avoid this at all costs, as the sauce could burn and boil over the tip of the pot.
Step 10: Final Stages
After the sauce has cooked, this would be a great time to add in some fresh basil. Fresh herbs make a tremendous difference in all dishes, and this is certainly one of them. You then want to carefully remove the pot from the heat source, and if you are not planning to use this for another recipe right away, allow the sauce to cool for at least 15-20 minutes before storing in the refrigerator. It will last in the refrigerator for a few days, or a few months if you place it in the freezer.You now have a delicious tomato sauce that is ready to be used in a multitude of different ways, so enjoy!
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