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Simply Perfect Tomato Sauce

Last week my cousin says to me, “are you more of a cook or a baker?” Baker, definitely. “Why?”, she asks. Well, I like to follow a recipe and know I’ll get exactly what’s promised. Except, I say, for basics like tomato sauce. “Well I don’t know how to make my own tomato sauce”, she says. This one’s for you, Kate!

I know I’ve said this before but everyone has foods they’ll make homemade and others they consistently buy. Though I’ve tried many a store-bought sauce, I still like my own sauce best. It’s super basic and doesn’t have any wild-card ingredients like red wine or anchovies. Once it’s simmered to sweet perfection I scoop out a custard cup’s worth of sauce and just eat it with a spoon. It’s absolutely soul-soothing.

This past Saturday I actually had 26 people come through my house. To prepare for the final eight I needed a make-ahead dinner that would still make them happy. I made my meatballs and sauce on Thursday night and besides the garlic bread all I had to do was boil noodles. Who doesn’t LOVE spaghetti and meatballs?  I recommend doubling this recipe and freezing half in tupperware; you’ll be glad you did. My final tip, outlined in step 7, is to always finish your noodles in your sauce instead of dumping them on top. This goes for any pasta dish. The starchiness of the noodles help coat the strands evenly with sauce (also the reason why you should never put oil in your pasta water – it prevents this coating from happening). Ok, enough technicalities, mangia!

Simply Perfect Tomato Sauce

Makes six cups (would serve 4-6)

2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, diced small

2-3 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 c. tomato paste

2 (24 oz) cans whole tomatoes

1 (24 oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 lb. whole wheat pasta

1. Heat butter and olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat for several minutes (so that butter melts).


2. Add onion and saute for 5-8 minutes or until softened and translucent.


3. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano and salt. Saute until garlic is fragrant, 1-2 minutes.


4. Add tomato paste and stir to combine – let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes.


5. Dump tomatoes into a bowl and break up tomatoes with hands so that none remain intact. Add tomatoes to pot and stir well.



6. Cover tomatoes with lid and when bubbles break the surface, reduce heat to very lowest setting. Set lid askew on top of pot and let sauce simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally. When you stir, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot with your spoon, making sure it doesn’t “stick”. 

7. For a smoother sauce (that’s the way I like mine), puree with a stick blender or in a regular blender. If using a regular blender, transfer in batches. Return to low heat and let gently simmer until ready to eat.

8. Cook noodles to recommended time on package and strain. Immediately dump noodles into sauce and toss together; let cook one to two minutes before serving, topped generously with torn basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.


Tessa approved of the leftovers.