My stepmom is the reason I came to cooking. When we were kids, we had meals from around the world and dinner as a family nearly every night – even if it was a little on the late side to accommodate everyone’s schedules. She’s fearless – she’ll try any recipe; she made cooking seem…doable, limitless. Also limitless: her creativity. I was in my mid-twenties before I realized we’d eaten chicken in one form or another pretty much seven days of the week.
One of my favorite meals hands-down was always her sauce – meat sauce, meatless, meatballs, I loved it all. It wasn’t exotic, but it was magnificent, every time. My seconds were always just sauce. Sauce on a plate. To this day, I crave tomato sauce on a regular basis.
I have a couple of recipes on deck that, like the Sausages Baked with White Beans recipe, that call for basic tomato sauce. While I do worship at the church of Rao’s jar sauce, it’s super expensive, plus, it’s nice to make your own. So, here’s my basic tomato sauce recipe – enjoy!
Wicked Delicious Basic Tomato Sauce
½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 28oz can whole plum tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp coarse kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
5 leaves fresh basil
In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot, sautee onion, carrot and garlic with salt and black pepper in olive oil until translucent. Add tomatoes, crushing by hand as you add them to the pot, and all of the juices in the can. Add basil leaves whole. Bring to a simmer and keep on low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally. This is a matter of preference and application, really. If it's getting a bit dry, you might need to put the lid on it for a bit.
Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend until relatively smooth. Test for salt and pepper. If it taste a bit acidic, add a tablespoon of butter and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and give it another taste.
Using a blender isn’t recommended – it tends to aerate the sauce too much for my liking. Also, if your basil is super sweet, you may want to taste-test before blending; remove the basil if it’s already on the sweet side. Finally, I like a little more kick in my sauce as a rule, but I almost always add a little extra when I use the sauce in preparation, so I go easier here.