My Ma’s sauce was always pretty simple. It was a Sunday staple. It was part of the rhythm of life. Every Sunday, you got up. You went to church. You came home and there was a vat of tomato sauce waiting. Sometimes with meatballs, sometimes for cheese cannelloni, sometimes for gnocchi, sometimes for lasagna, sometimes for stuffed peppers, sometimes for big fat ridged rigatoni (personal favourite when it comes to pasta).
But always good.
If you get my mother and her sister together, they will “have words” over how to make sauce and how much onion and how much garlic and if you use meat and which meat and on and on it goes. But that’s what makes them such good cooks. Practice.
Years ago, my mother went through the ritual of making homemade tomato preserves. It’s a labour of love, believe me. I remember standing around a huge cauldron of boiling tomato jars more than once in the back yard.
I’ve recently started doing it myself at the end of the summer. Minus the massive backyard cauldron. I get together with some friends, we eat, we grind tomatoes, we jar and we boil.
Usually, there’s a swim in the pool for us somewhere in there. And in the end, each of us leaves with about 2 dozen jars of preserves. It takes hours. It’s hard work. It’s honest work. It’s satisfying. It makes you appreciate good food. It’s a good day and a good deal. And in the end, you’ve made liquid sunshine. Here’s my most recent tomato canning post!
In the meantime, here is my mother’s simple tomato sauce recipe.
Here’s your RTI:
If you like a lot of onion, go for it. If you like garlic, add it. If you don’t want meat, skip it.
My mother has never added sugar to sauce. Ever. So I don’t either. But if you think it will taste better, go for it.
My mother made her sauce in whatever pot she had. But I recently made sauce in a dutch oven and I don’t think I’ll ever make it in another pot again. It thickens faster and has a richness the others I’ve made in stainless steel pots don’t.
And here’s another tip. Add butter to the olive oil when you first stir fry the onions. Adds smoothness and richness to the sauce. My mother never added butter. I know. I know. I’m contradicting myself. I won’t add sugar, but I will add butter. Cook’s prerogative! Why not make a good thing even better?!
- Cutting Board
- Sharp knife
- Wooden spoon for stirring
- Dutch Oven
- olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 onion, minced
- 1/2 pound ground meat (veal or pork or beef or mild Italian sausage or hot Italian sausage or any combination you like) – my mother always uses pork
- 3 garlic cloves (minced if you like garlic, or whole and smashed and easy to fish out before you add the tomato preserves)
- one 1-L jar of homemade canned tomatoes or 2 cans crushed tomatoes from the grocery store or around 1-L of tomato passata (often comes in glass jars at the grocery store in the canned tomato section)
- Water to fill HALF your 1-L jar or HALF of each can of crushed tomatoes or HALF the passata jar
- one can of tomato paste
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- fresh basil leaf
Here’s “The How”:
- Mince your onion
- Mince your garlic or smash it
- Enough olive oil to coat the pan. Heat it up until a piece of onion sizzles when it hits the oil.
- Add your onion, garlic and meat and stir fry oil it’s browned a bit
- Add your tomato preserves or canned tomatoes or passata and stir
- Splash some water around the inside of your tomato preserve jars or cans or passata jar to loosen up the remaining tomato inside until it’s half full of water. Add to the sauce.
- Add the can of tomato paste and stir.
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Add a few fresh basil leaves, if you are using them.
- Let cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to make sure nothing is sticking on the bottom of the pot.
You can omit the meat. The sauce will be thinner of course, but still quite tasty. I often make the meatless sauce for cheese cannelloni or lasagna dishes but the meat one will work just as well.
That’s Momma P’s simple homemade tomato sauce. I grew up on it. And there’s still something special about it when she makes it. I hope you enjoy it!