A cooking fundamental that can be used in the creation of hundreds of different dishes, Basic Tomato Sauce is a recipe that is a must to master. Fortunately, it’s a cinch to make!
I don’t remember the last time I purchased a prepared, jarred tomato sauce. I just remember many of them being sickly sweet and over-seasoned. It’s so easy to make your own that I don’t even see the convenience in prepared sauces. I also like being able to control exactly what goes in the sauce and what doesn’t. This simple version, gently spiced and seasoned, can be used with great success for all of your Italian recipes, Middle Eastern recipes, and beyond.
I always have some leftovers of this sauce either in the freezer or in a sealed container in the fridge. If I’m making vegetable or lentil soup, I’ll stir in a few generous tablespoons of sauce into it to enrich it and give it that depth and complexity that tomato provides. Making a moroccan tagine? Throw in some sauce for flavor and body. Want a creamy tomato sauce for pasta? Make this recipe then swirl in a few glugs of homemade cashew cream. (shown below)
You can even substitute it, one for one, for fresh tomato for most dishes on this blog that incorporate a cooked tomato element, like Eggplant Fatteh, Stewed Green Beans (Fasoolya bi Zayt), and Moroccan Eggplant Salad (Zaalouk). This is especially wise when fresh tomatoes are lacking in flavor.
The easiest and one of the most delicious ways to use it, however, is dressed on pasta garnished with torn basil leaves and an extra drizzle of olive oil. Simple perfection.
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2-3 large cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano or thyme
- pinch hot pepper flakes (optional)
- 2½ cups tomato (see note below)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- black pepper to taste
- 1 sprig of basil or 1 bay leaf or 1 sprig rosemary (whatever you have)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the Tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic and sauté until the garlic is bubbling and fragrant but not browned (around 30 seconds to 1 minute). Add the oregano and hot pepper flakes and bloom for 5 seconds before adding the tomato sauce.
- Simply stir in the salt, pepper, and sprig of basil, bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer covered for 10 minutes.
- After ten minutes, remove the pan from the heat, remove the herb sprig, and stir in the 2 teaspoons of fresh olive oil. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly to your liking. Use it immediately to dress pasta or let it cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge or freezer.
If you do have access to tasty fresh tomatoes, definitely use them. I would peel them, remove and strain the seeds (to keep the delicious juice that is around the seeds), and purée. The best methods for puréeing fresh tomatoes are either using a food mill or pulsing gently in a food processor or blender. Go slow because, if you go full speed with them, they will aerate and turn an unattractive light pink color rather than deep red.
I'm not crazy about canned tomatoes, as I find they often have a tinny flavor. But if you have a brand that you like, buy the whole peeled tomatoes, remove the seeds (if they bother you), and grind in a food mill or in a processor or blender in the same manner as above.
-The herb you use, whether it's basil, bay leaf, rosemary, or thyme, is unimportant. Just use any one of them and you're guaranteed a delicious sauce.
-This recipe makes enough sauce to dress a pound or 500g of pasta, so if you want leftover sauce after making pasta, it's best to double the recipe.