For the past few years, there's been some tension in my marriage, and the cause, oddly enough, has been tomato sauce. Almost every time I've made spaghetti and used sauce from a jar, my husband takes a taste and says very seriously, "We've got to do something about this sauce situation." We've looked up ways to liven up a canned sauce by adding extra ingredients, and they did help some, but he was still insistent that we find another way to solve the flavorless "sauce situation" crisis. While we were home visiting my parents over Christmas, my foodie sister mentioned that they started making a really easy (and really delicious) homemade tomato sauce, and we told her that we were desperate to try it. She sent us the recipe after we returned home, and we made it that night with high expectations—let me tell you, it did not disappoint!
I was a little bit skeptical because the ingredient list looked a little too simple and the recipe sounded too easy to be good, but the secret is that it's made with a type of plumb tomatoes called San Marzano tomatoes, and they fill the sauce with a sweet and tangy flavor. We thought that San Marzano was a brand of tomatoes, not the type, so we were a little confused at first, but we found them pretty easily near the canned tomatoes at our local grocery store. If you can't find that particular type near you, just go with plum tomatoes and it should still be delicious.
Easy (+ Delicious) Homemade Tomato Sauce, makes about 2 quarts.
Recipe slightly adapted from The Mozza Cookbook's Basic Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced (or a Spanish onion if you can find one)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 garlic cloves, chopped
Half a medium carrot, peeled and shredded
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 28 oz cans of whole peeled plum tomatoes (including their juices), preferably San Marzano
Add the oil to a large pot and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper, and cook (stirring occasionally) until the onions are soft and translucent (about 7-10 minutes). Add the garlic and stir often for 1 minute. Don't let the garlic brown during this step, so keep an eye on it. Add the carrot and thyme leaves and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until the carrot is tender.
Add the tomatoes and their juices, bring to a boil, and reduce heat allowing the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes. You'll want to stir the sauce every few minutes so that it doesn't burn (tomatoes can burn easily). So make sure you are checking back often during that time. The whole tomatoes will break down as the sauce simmers and the sauce will thicken a bit as it cooks. Season to taste with more salt and pepper once the 30 minutes is up. The recipe suggests that you run the sauce through a food mill (or you could use a blender as well) to smooth out the chunky sauce, but I really like chunky sauce. So I just mashed it a bit with a handheld potato masher and skipped the blending step. The sauce can be frozen for up to six months, so you can make a giant batch and keep it around until you need more.
While we have been using this sauce simply on top of pasta, it can be used in any recipe that calls for a tomato sauce (like lasagna or other Italian dishes). I can't tell you how glad we are to have discovered this recipe (thanks, Sis!), and I'm planning on adding thyme to my back porch garden this summer just so we can use it for this sauce. Finally, there is peace and quiet in our house on spaghetti nights, but that may also be partially because our mouths are too full of delicious sauce to talk! xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.