I used to feel very intimidated by any kind of tomato sauce. Not by the jarred stuff in the store, obviously, but by the process of making it. I tend to practice what I call “intuitive cooking”. I cook a lot, and I like to try things and see how they work out. Generally, that is a good approach, until it’s not – meaning, some things turn out great and become go-to recipes, and some things don’t become anything.
On the other hand, there is a great benefit to this experimenting approach – it is very educational. I didn’t always know that if you cook heavy cream with butter on medium high heat, it will thicken to a perfect consistency for a savory sauce. Much like I didn’t always know that if you keep cooking it, the oils will separate and there is no pushing them back in. I know it now, and that experience rewarded me with two great recipes with countless easy variations.
Looking back, I don’t know exactly what difficulties I seemed to have with tomato sauce. It most likely was something easily fixable – maybe I used diced tomatoes instead of whole and ended up with too much liquid. Anyways, a few months ago I felt ready to tackle it. Actually, I had to tackle it because I had just made these meatballs and they needed to swim in something warm, comforting, and tomato-e. It was time to re-visit it! To my delight, a few simple steps granted me exactly what I was hoping to find. I could taste the warmth of spices and the slightly sweet and acidic flavor of tomatoes. Time after time, it worked out perfectly and after testing it with meatballs, and with pasta, and a couple of times in between I am happily sharing it.
Notes about the recipe
This is another recipe in the unofficial “Use-What-You-Have” series. I created, tested, and re-tested it during the first few weeks of self-isolation. I relied heavily on what I already had and what you most likely have too.
I always stock my pantry with 28 oz cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes. I use them for tomato soup, and now for tomato sauce!
The “Use-What-You-Have” part refers mostly to spices. I honestly used what I had in my pantry the first time I made it – paprika, chili, and oregano. And I liked it! I imagine how unorthodox this may seem, but honestly – these are times of frugal living, creativity and – using what you have. You can use any of the three, or whatever spices you like. I imagine an Italian blend would be a natural choice. If you are not sure about adding this or that spice – smell it. Open the tomatoes, and smell it together. Trust yourself!
I like to start most of my recipes with sautéing onion and garlic in olive oil. The very first time I made it, I used a red onion, which I only usually like for salads and guacamole. I was happy with the result, especially since everything is processed at the end in the blender or food processor.
Basil is a natural and obvious choice for this but to tell you a secret, I made this with parsley and even cilantro, and I loved it. My husband loves cilantro and its strong taste elevated the whole sauce. It worked especially well in combination with chili and paprika.
So, to sum it up, this is not your traditional Italian tomato sauce. And that’s the beauty of it! It is simple, quick, comforting, and the best part – easily customizable. Most tomato sauce recipes call for a very long cooking time. While there may be truth in that, I’ve never tried it.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! Let me know in the comment section, on Facebook, or on Instagram.
From Kitchen, With Love –
- Blender or food processor
- 1 Tb olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1/2 C onion, grated or chopped
- 1 28 oz can of whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes
- 1/5 tsp chili, paprika, oregano – each
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the garlic and onion in olive oil over medium heat, until it turns a light golden brown color.
- Add the tomatoes, and break them with a wooden or silicone spatula.
- Add the spices, salt, and pepper.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Let cook for 5 minutes, covered.
- After 5 minutes, remove from heat and uncover. Carefully transfer to a blender or the bowl of a food processor.
- Pulse to process. I like it with the occasional chunk of tomato, so I don’t let it become completely smooth. It is for that reason I don’t use an immersion blender in this recipe. The longer you process it, the smoother it will get, so this is a matter of taste. Your taste 🙂
- Return to the pan you used and boil 5 more minutes, uncovered. Adjust the seasoning, if needed.
- Serve with pasta, add cooked ground beef, or meatballs and pasta. Top with basil leaves and lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Enjoy!