Mrs. Sell's Blog of Household Management

Recipe share: pasta sauce

I have not purchased pizza or pasta sauce for a long time. If I were awesome, I would make my own and can it, then I could just pull a jar off the pantry shelf whenever I need it, but I don’t. The closest I’ve come is freezing half a recipe in a ziptop baggie and thawing it out later.

Which means that whenever I make pizza or pasta, I spend part of the day making sauce. Which is actually okay, because it is really easy and almost fun, and I get to have a simmering pot of tomato sauce on the stove for a few hours. And there’s garlic.

I use Kenji Alt’s New York Style Pizza Sauce (the science of which is here), with a few alterations depending on whether I’m using it for pizza or pasta. Today I’ll show you the pasta version, which does not require the use of a food processor.

pasta sauce ingredients

The players: canned whole tomatoes, butter, olive oil, garlic, seasoning, salt, sugar, onion. (There should be a whole onion, but I guess I only had a half that day.)

If the sauce was going to go on pizza, I would put the tomatoes in a blender or food processor until they were pretty smooth. Since it’s going on pasta, I’ll skip dirtying the blender and just roughly chop them up. This is when I like to get out a very old-fashioned little tool:

kwik kut choppers

This is the Kwik-Kut Food Chopper, one with a smooth edge and one serrated. Remember back when products came with descriptive poems on the packaging?

kwik kut rhyme

(I don’t either, I think it was probably when my grandparents were young. )

I’ve used this for egg salad, for breaking up ground meat in a skillet, and anything that is either too round or too messy to cut on a cutting board. It is ideal for these canned tomatoes.


tomatoes and kwik kut


chopped tomatoes

It’s a cinch to clean, and I don’t have to worry about it breaking down!

Next, the garlic. I use the smash-and-peel method, which works wonderfully. You lay the clove on a flat surface, then use the flat of a wide blade to crush it with a down-and-away motion. (If you’re strong enough, you can just press down on it. I have to whack it with my fist. Which is fun.)

smashing garlic

Next, grate the garlic on a microplane grater. This is something I would never have bought for myself, but we received it as a surprise wedding gift, and now I can’t live without it. It doesn’t get used that often, but when I do need it, there is absolutely nothing else that will do the job. It takes zest off of citrus fruit perfectly, without getting any white at all!

grating garlic

Rub the clove along the surface just like grating cheese.

grated garlic

And on the other side, you will have garlic paste!

And now for the cooking portion of today’s assignment:

butter in pot

Put butter into saucepan.

oil in pot

Put oil in with butter. Heat it until the butter is melted.

seasonings in pot

Then throw in the garlic, seasonings (I use Italian seasoning and garlic powder. If this was going to be pizza, I’d use red pepper flakes) and salt. Cook them until they smell wonderful, but haven’t started to brown yet.

tomatoes pouring

Then dump in the tomatoes.

onions in pot

And stir in the sugar, and onions. Notice you don’t slice or chop the onions, just halve and peel (or peel and halve, if that’s the way you do it). It imparts a great flavor to the sauce without turning it into onion-tomato sauce. Trust me, I’ve used chopped onions in this recipe, and that was all you could taste.

Note: feel free to omit the sugar if your tomatoes are perfectly vine-ripe and sweet. Most tomatoes are acidic enough that they need just a tiny bit of sweet to cut the bite. If in doubt, go ahead and cook the sauce, then taste it at the end and see if it’s too bitter.

Note again: you’ll notice the recipe calls for fresh herbs. I have fresh herbs about four times a year, so I don’t use them. But I’m sure they would be great!

Then just cook the sauce down over a bare simmer until it has reach the consistency you desire. I usually make it thicker and more spreadable when it’s intended for pizza, and more liquid when it’s for pasta.

There you have it! Now you can make great pizza and pasta sauce at home with only a few ingredients and relatively little effort.

As always, I recommend Serious Eats and The Food Lab. And if Kenji‘s book is ever published, I’m sure I’ll recommend that, too.


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