This recipe for Italian Tomato Sauce is a recipe that Jack has been working to perfect over the last few years. For Jack, a good Italian tomato sauce is a very personal thing and it brings back fond memories of his childhood. To this day, he clearly remembers the amazing smells coming from the pot of tomato sauce that was always cooking on the stove anytime he visited his Italian grandparents. He’s been working hard to recreate that wonderful memory in our own kitchen!
There are so many different ways to make an Italian Tomato Sauce and depending on whom you ask – and where their family originally came from – you will find different family recipes. Some use different types of tomatoes, some with or without meat, some cooked for a long time giving the sauce a deep, rich taste and others cooked for just a short time for a light fresh taste. Some families even refer to their Italian tomato sauce as “Sunday Gravy.”
Originally inspired by a version of Italian tomato sauce that he grew up with, Jack credits his Aunt Mary for this recipe, plus some additional influences from the sauce that Jack’s father used to make. For this recipe, we used some San Marzano Pomodoro tomatoes that Jack grew in our garden last summer and canned. However, if fresh tomatoes aren’t available, we think some of the best San Marzano Pomodoro canned tomatoes are made by Cento and Pastene and both brands are readily available at most local grocery stores.
Update: For information on how to can tomato sauce, we suggest that you visit the Ball Canning website here. Here is another interesting link about canning tomato sauce which suggests that the pressure method should be used to ensure safe canning of any homemade tomato sauce. Alternately, freezing homemade tomato sauce may be another option for long-term storage.Print
Italian Tomato Sauce
An important first step to note when making this sauce is to bring the olive oil up to temperature very slowly with the garlic, herbs, and spices, and cook for about five minutes to brown the garlic. This is a step that Jack has seen referenced in a number of great Italian cookbooks and although not clearly stated why, we believe this slow heat-up process allows the oil to be infused with the seasonings providing a really delicious base to your sauce.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour 30 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Yield: 1 1/2 quarts
- 1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 4 crushed garlic cloves
- ¾ cup chopped onion (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano, divided, or ½ teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, divided, or ½ tablespoon dried
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped mint, divided
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes or two quarts of freshly canned garden tomatoes
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Before you begin, pour your two cans of tomatoes into a bowl and crush with your hand. Don’t break them up too small, you want large chunks.
- In a large heavy bottomed pot with a lid, on a burner with no flame, pour in olive oil and add red pepper flakes, garlic, onion, most of the oregano, basil and mint (save a little bit of each for the end), sugar salt and pepper. Turn on the burner and slowly bring up to hot. When the onions and garlic start to cook, stir and heat for five minutes.
- Remove the pot from the burner and place a heat diffuser over the burner. Place the pot over the heat diffuser and add the tomatoes. Turn burner to medium high and stir until they start to boil. Then reduce to simmer, partially cover and simmer 90 minutes.
- After 90 minutes, remove from heat and add the reserved herbs and Parmesan cheese. Add the butter to round out the flavors. Stir again and serve.
The old saying about the sauce tasting better the next day reheated is true. It gives the flavors a chance to blend and mellow out.
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