The Dude Society

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How To Make Tomato Sauce

In an attempt to get you guys into the kitchen, I am going to teach you to make the most basic of dishes, tomato sauce. It is simple, doesn't require any special equipment or ingredients, can be used in a variety of dishes, and Italian food will make any girl swoon.  Please note, under no circumstances does the Dude Society ever recommend using tomato sauce from a jar. Before we go any further, I am going to break this down into a very simple process. Cook onions, add garlic, add tomatoes, simmer for 20 minutes.  That’s all there is to it, so don’t be intimidated.  Read on for the details behind this very basic method. There are basically three ways to make sauce; the long, medium and short method.  The long method uses fresh tomatoes, while the short method uses tomatoes that have already been pureed and packaged.  While I will cover the other two at some point in the future, today I am going to focus on the medium length method which uses canned tomatoes.  Canned tomatoes?? Yes, canned.  Why?  Because canned tomatoes are picked at the peak of the season and sealed in a can so they can be used any time of year and still taste great.

The Tomatoes

So which kind do you buy?  You want to buy whole peeled tomatoes.  They come in big 28 oz. cans.  If you can find ones labeled as San Marzano tomatoes (that’s the type, not a brand) they are the best.  They come from San Marzano, Italy near Mt. Vesuvius and benefit from the volcanic soil.  They are the epitome of the Italian tomato.  While they can usually be found at Italian specialty stores, they may be tough to find in your area.  I order a dozen cans at a time from here.  This way you will always have a can on hand and you don't have to lug them home from the store.  If you can't find San Marzano tomatoes, any other type will do. For this recipe we are going to use two cans of tomatoes so you can make a big batch of sauce.  Whatever you don’t use you will put in a container and freeze.  It lasts forever, and can be thawed out in the microwave in a few minutes so you can make a good meal at a moment’s notice.  As I have said before, us dudes don't plan very well, so this is a home run. To begin, open two cans of tomatoes and set them aside.

Other Ingredients

Other than tomatoes, you need an onion (I like white, yellow, or sweet onions), four cloves of garlic, and extra virgin olive oil.  If you read my article on stocking your pantry, you already have all of this on hand. Start by chopping the onion(s).  While I think Gordon Ramsay is a douche, if you don’t know how to chop an onion, here is a good tutorial
I'm not going to say how many onions you need because I don't know how big the onions you have are.  I will say you need approximately a cup and a half of chopped onions.  This is not an exact science, so a little more or a little less is fine.  Don’t measure it, learn to eyeball how much you use for this recipe. Next, mince the four cloves of garlic.  Use the flat side of your knife to crush the clove which will allow you to peel the garlic.  Then just do the same thing you did with the onion.  Make slits down, then across, and chop.

Get Cooking

Now it's time to cook.  Assuming you already have the right gear, get out your big 6 quart stock pot and put it on your stove at medium high heat.  Leave it there for a few minutes to get nice and hot.  Then put some olive oil in.  Just enough to coat the bottom of the pan lightly, probably about two tablespoons, but don't measure it, learn to gauge it by eye.  Let it heat up for about 30 seconds and then throw in the onions. Using a wooden spoon stir the onions around to coat with oil.  Throw in a couple of good pinches of salt (like a pinch with your thumb, first and second finger) and a few grinds of pepper.  Now lower the heat to medium and let the onions cook until soft and translucent.  Stir occasionally. Once the onions are done, toss in the garlic and stir it around.  Let it cook until you can smell the garlic, about 30 seconds to a minute.  Don't let it burn! Now add the two cans of tomatoes and the juice that they are packed in.  I like to squeeze and crush the tomatoes with my hands right into the pot, just be careful to not squirt them all over the kitchen or your clothes.  Give it a good stir and let them simmer (that means bubbling lightly, not boiling) for about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally and adjust the heat to keep it from boiling.  You can cook it longer if you like, it will become a bit thicker and richer, but either way is good.

That's it!

Now taste it.  It will probably taste bland and flat.  So add salt.  You made a lot of sauce, so one little dash won’t do it.  Add, stir, taste, repeat until the flavor really brightens up and it tastes good. What you have now is a chunky tomato sauce.  If you like it smoother, as I do, invest in a hand blender (I like this one) and put it right into the pot while the sauce is simmering and blend until smooth. You are now ready to toss this with some cooked pasta and serve.  Put the left over sauce in a container and freeze.

Date Night Tip

Want to have your lady over for dinner?  Easy.  Make a salad and get some bread.  Thaw out the sauce in the microwave and boil some pasta.  After, you drain the pasta, put it back in the pot over medium heat, pour in some sauce, stir until nice and hot and put on plates.  Grate some fresh Parmigiano Reggiano over it (not the Kraft crap in the green can), open a bottle of wine, and you got yourself a nice date night meal.

About the author

Rich is the resident food & drink expert. He's been cooking since age ten, and has probably eaten and drank at most every restaurant or bar in New York City.

All articles by Rich »

7 responses to “How To Make Tomato Sauce”

  1. No one special says:

    Sounds delicious! Can I use it in a baked pasta, like Baked Ziti?

  2. Absolutely! While its ready to use after simmering for 20 minutes, cooking longer will make it a bit thicker and richer and it will work better in other applications like Baked Ziti or a Lasagna. As you will see in future articles, it is the basis for many other pasta dishes.

  3. Rich Wing says:

    I feel compelled to say something here. While that process will create a sauce that tastes good, you're basically just frying tomatoes with onions. What really makes the sauce taste Italian (ie good) is the addition of red wine and bay leaves. You don't need to modify the process too much to incorporate these two items. :)

  4. Rich,
    Thanks for your comment. As noted above, there are many additions to a basic tomato sauce that can be made for a variety of dishes. The recipe is for a classic pomodoro sauce, Salsa Al Pomodoro in Italian, and is made like this in almost every Italian household. There may be a carrot or celery stalk included, but never red wine or bay leaf.

    That said, the beauty of cooking, and particularly Italian cooking, is you can add what you have on hand; whatever you like, there are no limits. So thanks for the suggestion, I just don't agree that those additions make it more "Italian." As a point of clarification, the tomatoes in this dish are not fried, they are simmered.

    • Rich Wing says:

      Thanks for your reply / I stand corrected. (I may also be confused because I'm a dirty Sicilian and wiseguys do things differently). But I will say that red wine definitely adds a lot of flavor as do the bay leaves. Also, a little parmesan cheese and basil won't hurt, either. It's all kind of a moot point for me anyhow since I'm Italian but somehow allergic to tomatoes and milk. I've managed to concoct basically the same sauce using peppers, which works pretty well. But yeah, man, cool stuff. Thanks for doing this.

  5. Rich,
    50% Sicilian here. I also love red sauce made from roasted red peppers. I usually mix them 50/50 with tomato sauce, but if you’re allergic I guess you can’t do that. Thanks again for the suggestions and I will look to incorporate that into a future article.

  6. Rich Wing says:

    LOL alright alright man mi dispiace. My family always makes it that way, but I'll defer to a fellow paesan. ;) Nice to meet you. Piacere.

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