Basic Tomato Sauce

Prep time: 15 minutes /Cook time: 90 minutes/Total Time: 2 hours

One of the reasons I started this blog was for my kids. As daring, industrious young adults (mostly vegan and nearly vegan), they wanted a lot of my recipes of the food they grew up on to cook for themselves. They always loved my tomato sauce and I’ve always given them a quick, “Oh, it’s easy, take this and this and cook it together for a while.” When visiting me though, they claimed that it never quite tasted the same, so we cooked this Basic Tomato Sauce together. What I discovered is that “basic” is a qualifier for the sauce, not the skills and timing needed to produce a hearty and rich tomato sauce.

My kids were pretty much looking at the list, dumping the ingredients in a pot, and simmering it for about 30 minutes. While I’m a big believer in “If you use good ingredients, you’ll get a good product,” any recipe is a little more than simply the sum of its parts – I needed to refine my kid’s technique a little bit. See the notes below for hints!

2 28 oz cans of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes (see notes below)

1 28 oz can of tomato puree

¼ cup of high-heat and olive oil mix

1 medium to large yellow onion, chopped

4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed, large pieces

1 ½ cups red wine (or white wine or beer – see notes)

1 ½ Tbs of Italian Seasoning (mixed herbs only, no salt),

OR

(1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp dried tarragon

1 tsp dried basil)

2 Tbs Kosher salt

1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed

1 tsp garlic powder

1 Tbs fennel seed

1 Tbs Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

4 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar – split

Handful of chopped fresh basil, oregano, and parsley (optional)

2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Start with a hot pot. Preheat a 5-7 quart Dutch oven or other large heavy-bottomed pot on the stovetop. Add the high-heat oil and olive oil mix and then add the garlic and onions and sauté on medium heat until they get translucent. Toward the end of the sauté time, add all the herbs and 2 Tbs of the balsamic vinegar, cook with the o & g the last couple minutes.

When the onions, garlic, and herbs are soft, boost the heat and stir. As soon as it’s starting to get nice and hot, hit it with the wine and then lower the heat back down to medium and stir from the bottom to release any caramelization from the pan. This is when I open my cans…so let this simmer down for a couple minutes.

Add the tomato sauces first and stir until mixed. Then turn up the heat to medium high to get this simmering again. Once combined, stir in the puree, keep the heat on medium high and stir and bring back up to a simmer. This is when I usually add a little wine to each of the empty cans and swirl them around a bit, pour that into the pot too.

Adjust the heat and bring the sauce up to a slow bubbly simmer while stirring occasionally. At this point, everything should be smoothly combined, nothing stuck on the sides or bottom of the pot…kinda scrape the sides down and tuck it in by partially covering the pot.

Simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour.

Turn off heat.

Stir in the rest of the balsamic and 2 Tbs of olive oil and the optional chopped fresh herbs. Cover completely and let rest for about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust before serving.

Makes about  10 cups (2 batches)

Recipe notes:

Tomato Sauces – I use mid-quality/priced tomato sauces for this recipe, you can go more expensive, but I wouldn’t go cheaper. You can also adjust the texture of this sauce by substituting your tomato mix, smooth v chunky tomato sauce, the crushed tomatoes option will make the final product a little thinner and lighter, etc.

Wine – Be flexible, generally, I like a cheap Italian red wine for this, but something drinkable. If I’m making a lighter sauce I’ll use white wine, if I’m making something like ‘beef’-a-roni, I’ll even use a beer. If you want to eliminate the alcohol altogether, double the vinegar. You still want that acid.

Good luck and enjoy!

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