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The Key to Making a Badass Tomato Sauce

This winter I’ve been on a Scorsese movie binge. Casino, Goodfellas, and of course, the newly released The Wolf of Wall Street (Leo DiCaprio, if you’re reading this, please marry me). This movie binge, along with the rainy, cold weather, has inspired me to make a lot of soups and stews. I realized, however, that I really didn’t know a ton about making a classic tomato sauce. Sure, I’ve chopped onions and added garlic and diced tomatoes and made what I thought was a good sauce. But in reality, I was nowhere close. Thus began my hunt for an authentic tomato sauce.

Tomatoes. Yes, you will obviously need tomatoes for a tomato sauce. Classic Italian cuisine typically uses fresh tomatoes that are chopped and crushed. But I realize that in the dead of winter, not only will tomatoes cost more, but you’re not guaranteed the best quality product. Traditionally, Italians would make batches of red sauce in the summer, then jar/can it and store it for use throughout the year.  If you’re like me, you are not familiar with the lost art of canning fruits and vegetables. But not to worry! Any canned tomato from your local grocery store will work well. I personally like using organic diced tomatoes (you can find them in bulk at Costco). They have a great texture and flavor, and will bring out the best in your sauce. I also use plenty of tomato paste. This product helps create a rich flavor in your sauce, not to mention the perfect consistency.

Next is carrots and celery. Bet you didn’t think these veggies belong in an authentic tomato sauce. But they actually make great additions! Carrots add a warm body to your sauce, while celery mitigates the acidity of the tomatoes. Plus, this is a GREAT way to sneak in more veggies and boost the nutritional value of your sauce.

The last secret to an amazing sauce is a high speed blender or immersion blender. This is obviously an optional part, and if you like a more rustic take on sauce by all means don’t puree it. But let’s be honest: (almost) everyone loves the comfort and warmth of pureed food. And certainly no one wants a chuck of carrot or celery while they bite into a meatball. Using a high speed blender like a Vitamix is a great way to take your tomato sauce from amateur to authentic.

I added meatballs and mushrooms later to boost my protein intake. You’re welcome to eat it as is!

Simple and Chic Pureed Tomato Sauce 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp cooking oil (I use EVOO)

1 medium onion, diced

1 heaping Tbsp minced garlic

1  1/2 cups carrots, diced

1 1/2 cups celery, diced

2 cans diced tomato

1 small can tomato paste

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning Spice Mix (I use an organic brand from Trader Joe’s)

1/2 cup fresh parsley, diced finely

1 quart water, divided (this is up for debate; use more water if you like a thinner sauce or less if you want it thicker)

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in the pan. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Saute for 10-15 minutes until fragrant and softened.

2. Add the diced tomatoes and enough water to coat (about 1/2 cup). Add your Italian seasoning. Let this mixture cook on a slow simmer for 1 hour (or longer if you have time). You want the vegetable mixture to be nice and soft so that there won’t be any raw chunks when you puree it. Keep adding water as you let the mixture cook.

3. When the vegetables are tender and soft, blend them using your immersion blender or high speed blender. If you’re using a high speed blender, spoon the sauce back into the pot after it has been pureed.

4. Add the Parmesan cheese and additional salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste. Also add your parsley. Add water SLOWLY (half a cup at a time) until the sauce is the desired consistency. You might use less than a quart, you might use more, it’s really about your personal preference.

And there you have it! Super easy, right? I love this recipe because it literally tastes exactly like the tomato sauce I would buy in a grocery store, but without the artificial preservatives or high sodium that traditional jarred sauces tend to have. This is also a great recipe to double or triple, then freezes in batches!

authentic italian sauce

Oh, one more thing on a non-food-related note. I just got published on Thought Catalog! This was truly an honor for me. Please check out this awesome online column that gives a voice to so many people every day. Thank you Thought Catalog!

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