Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quick & Spicy Italian Tomato Sauce

It's been a long time since I've posted to this blog, I know. Life just took over and got very busy, but I'm excited about all the cooking I've been doing and can't wait to share new recipes with you.

March is National Sauce Month, and when I read that post from one of my chef friends on Facebook, I thought about my Spicy Italian Tomato Sauce and how easy it is to make this one time and use it for so many different meals. Forget about the long simmer time that we think of when we think about homemade sauces. I think a shorter simmer time for this sauce keeps the fresh tomato flavors bright. Of course, using a good tomato product is important, so steer clear of big box store brands in favor of San Marzano, Muir Glen, Furmanos, Centro, Hunts, or store brands labeled "Fancy," which often indicate they are San Marzano-style tomatoes. Taste test and see which ones you like the most (and let me know because I'm curious).

This sauce is easily adjusted to your tastes, too. If you don't want it so spicy, then decrease or omit the red pepper flakes. If you're not that wild about oregano, leave it out. If you want to use all fresh herbs, then add them right at the end instead of at the beginning.

In fact, that is a good lesson for today about herbs: If you are using dried herbs, add them toward the beginning of any recipe to give the oils in the herbs a chance to be released and flavor your dish. If you are using fresh herbs, add them at the end to keep their flavor and color bright.

Spicy Italian Tomato Sauce

Easy to throw together when you get home from work, then simmer while you change clothes, check homework, throw a load of laundry in the washer, etc. Or make this on a less-busy day and double or even triple the recipe and package in 2-cup portions to freeze or share with friends. Suggestions for dishes made with this sauce appear after the recipe below.

Serves 8

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Diets: Vegan; Gluten and Dairy Free


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced, or to taste (TT)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crumbled
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or TT
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes in puree
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine (buy a bottle of Chianti to cook with and then to drink with your meal)
1 bay leaf


Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, basil, marjoram, and crushed red pepper. Cover and cook until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Pour whole tomatoes into a large bowl and break them up with your fingers. Add these with their juice, the crushed tomatoes, the red wine, and the bay leaf to the onion mixture; simmer gently, uncovered, until the sauce thickens a bit, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf before serving or storing. Adjust seasoning (salt) TT. Add a teaspoon or so of sugar if necessary.


Toss with your favorite cooked pasta; roast with peeled, quartered potatoes until they are tender; add to your favorite basic meatloaf recipe and then spread over top before baking; add to pork or beef roast in crockpot cooking; brown chicken pieces and simmer in sauce till cooked through for chicken cacciatiore (or use pieces of cooked rotisserie chicken); brown Italian sausages with sliced onions and bell peppers, then toss with sauce; simmer mussels or clams in sauce in covered pan till shells open. Use your imagination to create other quick and delicious meals with your sauce!

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