Posted on 10 April 2010 by

Recipe: Basic Tomato Sauce

tomato-sauce21By David Harbilas

In our last post we covered some of the thoughts about tomato sauce in general and its uses.
Now we’ll actually get to making it.

First, an explanation on its variations.

Some call for carrots, some don’t. I do like the use of carrots, not just for their sweetness but also for the thickness they provide the final sauce as well as a certain savory quality that is lost when carrots are omitted. There are also some recipes that call for either red or white wine, while some use neither. I prefer a little white wine, as its acidic and sugary qualities pair well with the tomatoes.

Finally, a word on tomato paste: for the longest time, I hated it. Now I realize that it lends a degree of depth to the sauce that simply cannot be found without it. I cannot recommend highly enough that you use an unflavored, basic paste, as there are numerous varieties that have added flavors like roasted garlic, basil, and “Italian Seasoning.”

Tomato paste itself is nothing more than a puree of a very specific variety of plum tomato that is stewed very slowly into a paste-like puree. Much like the sun-dried tomato, paste adds a meaty quality to whatever it is cooked with.

Yields about 8-10 cups of sauce

  • Two 35-ounce cans of whole peeled plum tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • About ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, until shimmering. Add the onion and carrot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, being careful not to burn.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, until paste coats the vegetables and begins to give off its aroma. Add the whole tomatoes and wine and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the basil leaves and cook the sauce for 1 ½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so to keep the sauce from scorching on the bottom of the pan.

If the mixture becomes too thick or dry, add a little water. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Puree the sauce in batches in a food processor until smooth. Sauce can be pulsed to form a chunkier sauce.

One Response to “Recipe: Basic Tomato Sauce”

  1. our friend Ben Says:

    I couldn’t agree more about the necessity of tomato paste! Though I’ll admit, I use chianti in my sauce, white wine with tomatoes wouldn’t have occurred to me, unless, say, you were using pink or yellow tomatoes!

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