Homemade Tomato Sauce

45 minutes total
10 minutes active
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A kid-pleaser and a crowd pleaser, tomato sauce is an umami-packed essential that all home cooks should try making from scratch at least once. While nothing beats the ease of jarred sauce, making tomato sauce yourself allows you to tailor the sauce to your palette and avoid any artificial flavors or preservatives that are often included in jarred sauces. For me, the best tomato sauce is simple, and only includes a few key ingredients that augment the flavor of what I believe is already a perfect food: tomatoes. Every home cook has their own tomato sauce recipe, so feel free to use mine as a guideline to create one that speaks to you.

I’ve included two versions serving two very different seasons: summer, when the tomatoes are abundant and deliciously sweet and acidic; and all of the other seasons, when the tomatoes are shitty and you should just buy a quality canned variety.



Version 1: In summer with fresh tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs of large tomatoes, any variety
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (more if you like it spicy)
  • 2-3 sprigs of herbs of your choice, such as basil, parsley, or oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Using a sharp knife, create a shallow cuts across the bottoms of the tomatoes in the shape of an “X,” taking care to avoid cutting through anything more than just the skin. The cuts should extend ½ inch from one side of the stem all the way across the bottom to the opposite side.

Once the water comes to a rolling boil, dip the tomatoes into the boiling water until you see the edges of the skins around the cuts begin to curl or loosen just slightly, about 30 seconds. Remove the tomatoes from the water to a work surface, and then once cool enough to touch, peel the skins of the tomatoes. They should come off easily, but if you are having trouble, place them in the boiling water for another 30 seconds.

In a food processor or blender, combine peeled tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, and salt to taste. Blend until smooth. Pour the tomato mixture into a medium saucepot or dutch oven and add herbs. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Then reduce to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until thick and saucy, about 25-30 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as desired.



Version 2: Any other time of year with canned tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed and skins removed
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 28-oz can of whole tomatoes in sauce (San Marzano variety preferred)
  • 2-3 sprigs of herbs of your choice, such as basil, parsley, or oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

In a medium sized dutch oven or sauce pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic cloves and saute until beginning to brown lightly, about 3-4 minutes. Add the chili flakes and saute for 1 minute more. Using your hands, squish the tomatoes directly into to the pot, breaking them into bite-sized pieces. Don’t worry if some are larger than others, they will continue to breakd down while cooking. Add in any remaining sauce from the can, herbs, 1/2 can full of water, and salt and pepper to taste.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the onion and garlic are falling apart, 40-45 minutes. At this point, remove any intact onion, garlic, or basil and adjust salt and pepper to taste. If desired, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce, or spoon into a food processor or blender to puree.