My Tomato Sauce

5 Jul

For pasta, for pizza, for salsa… for just about anything. When I need a pasta sauce that is delectable, this is the one I go to. Its been “developed” over more than 20 years of cooking tomato sauce. I have friends who remember me cooking a version of this sauce when I was 14 years old! Im almost 40 now 😉  Its ingredients are malleable but there are some broad rules that I usually stick to:

  • Keep a base of onions and loads of garlic
  • Always use a mix of tomatoes – I use at least 2 types of fresh tomatoes, canned pomodoro, and tomato paste. This ensures a really deep level of tomato flavour. Sun dried tomatoes are also awesome in this sauce.
  • Try and use a mix of fresh and dried herbs. Again, these impart very different flavours, and mixing them really lends depth to the sauce
  • You can use a mix of vegetables (see below for what I put into it) but try and make sure there are some carrots for sweetness

I first started cooking this sauce in high school when I used to have loads of people over for pool parties. It was the most forgiving sauce because you could simmer it for ages, and it just got better and better. As long as the basic rules were followed, and the bones of the sauce were respected, you could add just about any vegetable (bar potatoes or pumpkin) that you wanted.

When I went to university, I started making this sauce for my housemates. There was always something missing, until one day, I hit on a magic combination. And this is the secret to the sauce, without which you will not have the same sublime flavour and glossiness. These are non negotiable. You need at least 1 eggplant for silky smooth, shiny unctuousness, and a big handful of prunes for a dusky sweetness that you just cant place in the final taste. These two ingredients are secret because they both melt into the sauce, encouraging and supporting its flavour without pushing their own agenda into the story. Eggplant and prunes. Who would have guessed?! Please do not try and make this sauce without these two – I promise, it will make you so very happy that you trusted me. 😉

For about 4 – 6 cups of finished sauce, you will need:

  • 2 medium white onions (approx 2 cups), minced
  • 7 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter (optional)
  • Salt and pepeper
  • Fresh basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano and rosemary, minced fine – about 1/2 cup in total
  • 1 large or about 5 baby eggplant (approx 2 cups) roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large red pepper (approx 1 cup), deseeded, roughly chopped
  • 4 – 6 baby carrots (approx 1 cup), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 medium zucchini (approx 1 cup), roughly chopped
  • 2 cup mixed tomatoes, roughly chopped (I used cherry and baby roma)
  • 8 medium portobello mushrooms (approx 3 cups) peeled and very roughly chopped
  • 2 x 400 g cans of pomodoro tomatoes in juice – about 4 cups, made up with wine or water if needed
  • 15 pitted prunes
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp mixed Italian herbs (dry)

In a heavy 5 qt saucepan, soften onions and garlic in about 2 tbsp olive oil and butter (if you are not using the butter, just use a little more olive oil), over high heat. Keep the olive oil by the side of the stove, and add more when you feel the ingredients are sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Season the onion mixture with salt and pepper, and add about 3 tbsp of the minced mixed fresh herbs, and mix well. Lower heat to medium high, and add the eggplant. Mix well to ensure its covered with oil and onions. Add  balsamic vinegar, and mix to brown a little.

Add red pepper and mix well, and then a few minutes later, add carrots and mix well.

Add all the red wine and the tomato paste, mix well, and turn the heat to low. Add zucchini, mix well, and then add the raw tomatoes and mix well. Add the mushrooms and mix to combine all, keeping check that nothing is sticking and add olive oil if neccessary.

Measure out 2 cans of pomodoro tomatoes in juice into a large measuring cup and make up to 4 cups with wine or water if needed. Smash the tomatoes with a fork so they are roughly chopped, and add all at once to the pan.

Cover the sauce, and allow to begin to simmer and steam. Meanwhile, pit the prunes, and chop roughly. Add the prunes and brown sugar to the sauce and mix well.

Let the sauce simmer, covered, for approx 15 – 20 minutes, mixing every five to ten minutes to ensure it does not burn.

Uncover, mix very well, and let simmer for at least 45 minutes to a couple of hours, over low heat, or until reduced by half. Ensure you check the sauce every 15 minutes or so to ensure it does not burn. You can add more wine if you want a particularly deeply wine-ey sauce.

Taste for flavour and season with salt and pepper if needed, or even some more sugar, and add dried herbs. About five or ten minutes before finished, add the rest of the fresh herbs to let their scent permeate the sauce.

Once the sauce is to your liking, take off heat and decide if you want to keep it chunky (which is nice for some pastas, salsas, etc) or if you want to blend it smooth. I use an immersion blender here. If you do blend it please make sure it has cooled to at least lukewarm – hot splashing tomato sauce is a real pain!

If you are using this as a pizza sauce as I will be, make sure you have at least one cook’s meal with about half a cup of sauce mixed with some angel hair pasta! Soul satisfying.

This freezes extremely well. I often freeze in an ice cube maker and then transfer to a zip loc bag. Alternatively, measure out by cupfuls into a sandwich ziploc bag and freeze flat. Keeps for up to 6 months.

Special thanks to AngelKitten for transcribing all the ingredients and keeping track of me!

Photos copyright Chan KY

5 Responses to “My Tomato Sauce”

  1. Cherie July 5, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    Oh yummy!! I love homemade tomato sauce! This looks fabulous and cannot wait to try it!

    Thank you,
    Cherie

    • delectableblog July 5, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

      Thanks Cherie! I hope you enjoy it – please do tell me how it goes once you’ve made it! 🙂 Pia

  2. Karolina O'Donoghue July 7, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    Eggplant and prunes, eh? OK, I’m game for this! Have shut the Aga down for now, it’s all happening over a wood-fire at the moment. This is definitely the thing I’m going to try first when the oven comes back! Thanks, P, will let you know. Tomato sauce is a highly important thing! xxxxx

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Chicago Deep Dish Pizza « delectable - July 10, 2010

    […] pretty easy with a bit of forward planning. You need to have certain ingredients at the ready: the tomato sauce (I use my own tomato sauce recipe but you could just reduce some onions, […]

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