Basic Tomato Sauce
view of tomatoes

    If you keep canned tomatoes on hand, you will always be able to make fresh, delicious sauce in about the time it takes to bring water to a boil and cook the pasta. You can use freshly grated Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano) cheese with this, but it is not essential. Makes enough for at least 1 pound of pasta, about 4 servings.

    Time: 20 minutes

    3 tablespoons olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed, or 1 small onion, minced
    1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


    1. Warm 2 tablespoons of the oil with the garlic or onion in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is lightly golden or the onion is translucent.

    2. Drain the tomatoes and remove their seeds if you choose to do so. Crush them with a fork or your hands and add them to the skillet, along with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture becomes soupy like, about ten minutes. Remove the garlic if you like. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of oil, taste for salt, and add more if necessary. (This sauce may be covered and refrigerated for a day or two, or put into a closed container and frozen for several weeks.) Serve over any long pasta.

    Preparation Tip:
    The best way to crush canned tomatoes for sauce is to first drain out the liquid in the can (save it in case your sauce becomes too thick). Then, while the tomatoes are still in the can, swish a sharp knife through them a few times--they all will be cut into pieces in seconds.

    Three Ways To Quickly Vary Basic Tomato Sauce

    1. Tomato Sauce with Herbs: Stir in two or three tablespoons of minced fresh basil leaves, or one teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano or marjoram leaves (or one-half teaspoon dried), while the tomatoes are cooking. If you are using basil, add more as a garnish. Or simply garnish with plenty of freshly minced parsley, basil, or mint leaves.

    2. Pink Tomato Sauce: Thin about one cup of ricotta cheese with about two tablespoons of the pasta cooking water and stir into the sauce just before serving. Kids love this pink sauce.

    3. Puttanesca Sauce: Stir two tablespoons of capers (drained), some crushed red pepper flakes if you like, and/or one-half cup pitted black olives (the wrinkled, oil-cured type are best here) into the sauce after adding the tomatoes.

Copyright © July 3, 2008