Knowing how to make a good tomato sauce is rewarding, given all the ways you can use it. Pizza, pasta, a sauce for grilled or roasted vegetables. All you need is a few essential pantry ingredients – oil, garlic, onion, tomatoes and salt. It’s that kind of recipe that can get you out of the “I don’t know what to make” jam. If you get a marinara sauce just right, it’s impressive, simple and inexpensive to make – better than anything you can buy from the grocery store.
I like a marinara sauce that is well salted and uses a decent amount of olive oil. The salt balances the acidity and the oil makes the sauce stick to you lips and gives it a good mouth feel. I use whole tomatoes out of a can, that are crushed before being added to the pan. As the sauce simmers the pieces of tomato breakdown giving the sauce a thick consistency. And you can never go wrong finishing the sauce with a handful of fresh parsley or basil.
The method for making marinara sauce is simple. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat (any hotter and you’ll burn the garlic), then add the crushed whole tomatoes and salt – don’t be shy with the salt. Cook, stirring often until the sauce is reduced and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Taste, and if it’s tart add the tiniest pinch of sugar.
Simple Tomato Sauce for Pasta
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¾ cup finely diced onion
- 1 clove garlic minced
- pinch red chilli flakes optional
- 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chilli flakes (if using), cook stirring occasionally, until softened and golden around edges, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place tomatoes in a bowl and crush with your fingers. Add tomatoes and salt to the skillet. Simmer until the sauce thickens and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 25-30 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick, loosen it with a splash of water or pasta water.
- This sauce freezes well.
- Use a skillet over a pot to make the sauce. The wideness of the skillet allows the sauce to reduce faster and become thick.
- I like onions in my sauce, but it’s not necessary. Instead, use more garlic.
- If you want a smoother sauce, blend it with a hand blender after it’s cooked.
- A jar of passata works well in place of whole tomatoes, but stay away from diced or crushed tomatoes. Canned diced tomatoes have calcium chloride added as a firming agent, which limits the tomatoes' ability to break down during cooking and crushed tomatoes are too thick and tart.