Cozy up to fall with something other than a pumpkin spice latte.
This homemade tomato sauce is undoubtedly one of my kitchen MVPs. It’s incredibly easy to whip up, and having a jar in the fridge opens up any number of possibilities for quick meals.
I made a batch on a particularly windy evening in SF as a base for a simple yet hearty pasta. Coupled with wine and toasted bread, the meal was the perfect complement to a quiet night in with friends.
As much as I would love to make a homemade sauce truly from scratch (cheers to you, people at the farmers market with 20lb boxes of tomatoes), the reality is that I needed an option that could be made year-round and be ready within an hour.
That’s where this sauce comes in.
Begin by heating a splash of olive oil in a 9″ frypan over low/medium heat. While the oil warms, dice the onion and chop up the garlic.
Add the onions and garlic to the pan once the oil has warmed (you’ll know because the oil will “run” quickly when you tilt the pan). Cook them until they’re soft but not browned – once they get translucent, it’s time for the next step.
Mix in a spoonful (~1.5 tablespoons) of tomato paste to the mixture, and turn the heat up just a notch.
You want the tomato paste to heat all the way through and also brown a little. This allows the tomato paste to really come to life and adds a delicious warmth to the flavor.
Allow to cook on medium for 3-5 minutes before adding 1/3 cup of red wine. This will deglaze the pan and will sizzle a bit, but take the opportunity to scrape all of the delicious browned bits from the bottom.
Once you’ve scraped the pan, go ahead and add your tomatoes and herbs, and turn the heat all the way down to low. This is the tricky part: you have to wait. Allow it to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it has reached the consistency that you like.
Note: Cooking on high for 20 minutes is not the same as cooking on low for an hour. Thank you, collegiate me, for discovering that firsthand.
So, you have to wait. Take the opportunity to pour yourself a glass of wine and set out olive oil for the bread.
After the sauce has simmered for an hour, that’s it!
Salt + pepper to taste, of course, but you now have a delicious and easy tomato sauce that you can store in your fridge for up to 1 week. Use it for pizzas, dipping sauces, or for homemade pasta sauce.
Tonight, I decided to use it as a base for pasta. In a separate pan, I browned 1 lb of lean ground beef until it was mostly cooked through. I then added it to the tomato sauce with about 10 minutes to go so the flavors could come together.
While everything simmered together, I set water to boil for the pasta and set to work on chiffonading the basil leaves for the garnish.
Chiffonading is a super easy technique: simply roll the leaves together into a tight roll, and slice thinly. NYTimes has a great how-to here.
Basil chiffonaded? Second glass of wine poured? Sauce and pasta noodles ready? Check, check, check. Time to assemble!
Mix most of the basil into the sauce just before you serve, but reserve a few threads to sprinkle on top.
Et voilá. Dinner.
The Easiest Homemade Tomato Sauce
- (1) 28 oz. can Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes (Note: Mild-palate friends, don’t worry about the ‘fire roasted’ part – these aren’t spicy!)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 large yellow onion
- 3-6 cloves garlic, depending on your taste
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Salt + pepper to taste
- Heat your olive oil in a frypan over low/medium heat. Meanwhile, finely dice your onion and garlic cloves.
- Once the oil is warmed (it will “run” easily when you tilt the pan), add the onion and garlic.
- Heat the onion/garlic until it is soft and translucent, but don’t let the mixture brown. About 2 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste, allowing it to coat the onion and garlic. Let it simmer and brown, about 3-5 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan by adding the red wine, and scrape the tasty bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the entire can of tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves, and salt. Stir thoroughly before covering and turning the heat down to low.
- Allow the covered mixture to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding more herbs to taste.A
- After the sauce has simmered sufficiently (you’ll know because it gets to the right consistency – and this is different for everyone! Make it how you like), take it off the heat and do one final taste test. You may need to add more salt if you aren’t adding any sort of meat to the dish later.
- Use immediately, or store in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
And if you want to make the pasta dish that I made above…
- Pasta of your choice (I used fusilli noodles, because I think they’re fun and they collect the sauce well)
- Large handful of fresh basil leaves
- 1 lb ground beef
- Additional 2 tsp salt and 2 tsp oregano (and fennel, if you’d like)
- While the sauce is simmering, begin to heat oil in another frypan for your meat.
- Once the oil has warmed, add the meat to brown and mix in the oregano and salt. If you have an additional 1/2 onion, chop that up and add it in as well.
- As the meat browns and the sauce simmers, boil water for your pasta. Make the pasta according to instructions.
- When the meat has browned and is just about done, go ahead and add it all to the sauce for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Re-cover the sauce, and allow everything to simmer together.
- Meanwhile, chiffonade your basil leaves by rolling the leaves tightly together, and slicing thinly.
- Once the sauce is done, mix in about 3/4 of the basil just before serving. Pour the sauce over the noodles, and top with the additional basil to serve.
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P.S. – About that leftover can of tomato paste. You can freeze it in tablespoon increments (I stick mine into freezer-safe plastic bags) and de-frost straight into the pan for future use.