Basic Tomato Sauce

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A good tomato sauce is the foundation for so many wonderful dishes—pizza, pasta, chicken, and fish. Here is a recipe for a basic tomato sauce that starts with a soffritto of onions, carrots, and celery cooked in a little olive oil, to which garlic, tomatoes and seasonings are added.

Simple and delicious.

The sauce can be dressed up with mushrooms, sausage, olives, wine, and all manner of vegetables. For a tantalizing version of a tomato-based sauce check out Sean’s sauce over at Hedonia. What’s your favorite tomato sauce recipe?

Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe

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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 1/2 cups of sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot or 1/2 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small stalk of celery, including the green tops, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, including the juice, or 1 3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

1 Gently cook the onion, carrot, celery, and parsley: Heat olive oil in a large wide skillet on medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and parsley. Stir to coat.

basic-tomato-sauce-method-1

Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened and cooked through.

2 Add garlic: Remove cover and add the minced garlic. Increase the heat to medium high. Cook for garlic for 30 seconds.

3 Add tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, salt, pepper, then simmer: Add the tomatoes, including the juice and shredding them with your fingers if you are using canned whole tomatoes. Add the tomato paste and the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Bring to a low simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Optional, purée for smooth sauce: If you want you can push the sauce through a food mill, or purée it in a blender or with an immersion blender, to give it a smooth consistency.

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Basic Tomato Sauce

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Showing 4 of 64 Comments

  • Fran

    I made this exactly as written and it turned out amazing. My boyfriend was reminiscing about his grandmother’s recipe, but couldn’t quite remember it, except for the battuto (holy trinity). I thought your recipe was the closest as per his memory and he loved it. I also made your Italian Meatballs, but with pork tenderloin that the butcher ground up for me…perfection! The only thing I altered with the meatballs was adding bread crumbs because they ended up a little soggy. I put the sauce and meatballs into the slow cooker for 5 hours on low and it was just lovely. Thank you so much for these recipes. I love your collection.

  • Ann

    For some reason I don’t like carrots in tomato sauce or marinara. Just personal preference. I don’t like the sweetness carrots add. I prefer my sauces more Sicilian. I usually don’t use celery either.

  • Gary Zee

    Carrots and celery but no oregano in a pizza sauce….hmmm……… This is more of a heavy cooked sauce recipe for pasta. I stopped cooking my sauce because it cooks on the pizza. Also, basil is too strong for a generic sauce.
    Here’s my no-cook I’ve been using for years and it’s very fresh and quick:
    1 14 oz. can tomatoes whole or diced, drained
    2 tbls. oregano
    1 tbls. olive oil
    3-4 or more pressed garlic
    1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper
    ~1/4 tsp. granulated onion
    pinch of salt
    pinch of sugar
    tiny splash of red wine vinegar
    Combine all in a bowl. Use an immersion blender to puree and you’re done.

  • Art

    Remember when you are cooking the onions to “sweat” them for 15-25 minutes. Then add the carrots and celery. Then Sweat the mixture to concentrate the flavors. After that you add the tomato paste and cook it into the mixture to allow the “paste-y” taste to be cooked out of the sauce. Then add the seasoning and cook that for 4-5 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Alas you add the canned tomatoes and bring to a boil, then simmer til sauce and oil have combined. This is the key, the sauce and the oil have to cook down and combine, this is how you know it is ready.

  • Jennifer

    Can you can this sauce?

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