Italian red sauce
Is it marinara sauce? Is it pizza sauce? Is it spaghetti sauce? In Italy it’s just called “sauce.” We call this “red sauce”, because we make other sauces of other colors in our kitchen. I guess in Italy “sauce” gets the point across though. Put it on a pizza, smother some spaghetti with it, pour it on some chicken; it’s just crazy good. Obviously the best part of this sauce is the flavor of the tomatoes with the fresh herbs, garlic, onions…etc. However, the second best part of this awesome mess is the aroma that floats out from the kitchen and through the house as you’re making it. If you haven’t taken the time to break away from the store bought jar of spaghetti sauce and made a pot of your own at home, then you’re missing out. Seriously, you might be a deprived individual (well, you might be anyways, but we won’t address that here.) One of the best parts for me is the aroma from each step is unique and builds on the last one. If you’re like me you could just sit there and smell onions and garlic simmering together in olive oil all day right? However it gets even better. Use local organic ingredients where possible.
Here’s the ingredients you’ll need:
(that’s all it is!)
It’s still crazy good with dried, but it’s a unique experience eating fresh herbs cooked into a tomato sauce. Mince, or chop all the herbs (though most purists out there will says you never cut an herb, only tear it. I don’t care THAT much about that….yet) and set aside in a separate bowl. Add the brown sugar, salt, and Italian seasoning mix to the bowl. What is that awesome cutting board chopper thing you ask? Some kitchen gadget I got from my brother and sister-in-law straight from Alaska. It’s an “ulu” which is Eskimo for “Woman’s knife”, but please don’t remind me (and I REALLY wish I didn’t know that in the first place.) Translation aside, these things, along with their Italian counter-part the mezzaluna (many physical differences between the two, but in this case both seem to work great), are amazing for mincing fresh herbs. The cutting board on this even had a bowl formed into it. I’d link to it for you, but never cared to look for one (because I have one.)
Put the tomatoes in a blender and puree them. This may need to be done in two batches depending on the blender jar size. Chop the onion and mince the garlic.
(I know the recipe says 4 cloves, but every time my eyes read the recipe my brain tells me that this much is “4”)
Time to cook!
Get out a 5 qt or 8 qt sauce pot. Preheat it over medium heat.
Add olive oil (not Extra Virgin unless EV is all you have (EV should never be heated)) and onions to the pot. Season this layer with a little salt and pepper. Let onion saute until translucent but not browned.
About halfway through the onions being done add in the garlic. I find the garlic sautes faster so I don’t add them at the same time.
When onions and garlic are near done, raise the heat to medium high for a minute and then deglaze the pot with the beef stock. Stir it together and let it simmer to reduce for a few minutes (we’re just trying to concentrate the beef flavor here, but not cook off the liquid.)
After reducing the stock add in the tomatoes. Stir together and bring this mixture to a boil. Once at full boil let it cook for 7 minutes. You will want a mesh splash screen here to avoid a kitchen disaster as you do not want to put a lid on the pot here (we want some evaporation to reduce the sauce a bit.)
After the tomatoes have cooked for 7 minutes lower the temperature to a simmer. Dump in all the herbs, salt, and brown sugar that you had set aside previously and stir them into the sauce.
Replace the splatter guard if simmering tomato sauce makes you nervous. Simmer for 25 minutes.
When done, taste, and adjust the salt to your liking if needed.
Tada! Buon Appetito!
In our house this is our default pizza sauce on homemade pizza. You can also use it in stuffed and breaded chicken breasts with this on top (recipes for both coming soon.)
* If using the smaller cans of tomatoes add a slight bit more of all the flavor ingredients as that’s a few more ounces of tomatoes.
* Look for canned tomatoes that come in BPA free cans to be safer (erring on the side of caution). Most canned tomatoes on the market are lined with BPA. More info on BPA can be found here at WebMD.
* If in season, always look to get fresh tomatoes (if you’re willing to peel them (for me, that depends on what day it is)). Tomatoes in the stores, when out of season, tend to have tougher skins as they are bred to withstand colder winter temps. Canned would be the better option during the winter. Here in AZ, locally harvested tomatoes are in season May-November. Use this seasonality guide at ask.com for you state.
*If you like a smooth sauce (or need it for a particular use) just pour back into blender. Do not put lid on completely, but cover blender jar well. If you put the blender lid on and turn the blender on with hot sauce inside you will get a sauce explosion and that’s not the kind of “Wow!” effect we’re going for here. Leave room for steam to vent away from your hand as you hold the lid. Puree again until smooth.