Tomato Sauce

May 9, 2011

in Frantastic Originals,Italian

Growing up, Sunday mornings always brought the smell of my Sicilian mom’s tomato sauce which she started bright and early because we would eat our big Sunday meal at noon.  She started out by frying salt pork until it rendered its fat, and then she would fry Italian sausage and country style ribs in it, followed by onions.  Sometimes she would add bracciole, a very thin beef cutlet rolled up with her Italian bread crumbs and tied with string.  Next would come the tomato puree with salt, pepper, and fresh basil, followed by meatballs which she had fried separately in olive oil.  Once all the meat was in, it would simmer throughout the morning until the pork, in particular, would just fall off the bone.

My mom’s sauce is fabulous but a bit more time-consuming than the simple marinara sauce I make these days.  My sauce is getting down to Italian basics—olive oil, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper.  It doesn’t get much simpler than that.  You can cook up a batch after you get home from work in about 30 minutes.  Why anyone would prefer to just open a jar of bottled sauce when you can have something this delicious, this fast is beyond me.  If you aren’t averse to cutting and chopping an onion and some garlic and sautéing them, you’ll have a tasty meal in short order.  While the sauce is simmering and the pasta is cooking, make a salad; and your family will have a wonderful home-cooked meal.

When my daughters were in high school, they were on the swim team which had a tradition of feeding all the swimmers and coaches, including their opponents, after a home meet.  In order to feed the crowd of close to 100, we parents would sign up to contribute Italian pasta, desserts, and beverages.  I was new to all this, but I immediately signed up to cook and bring 3 lbs. of pasta which was one of the assignments.  After asking one of the more seasoned moms if I should make lasagna or baked ziti (wanted it to be special), she told me that the pasta should be uniform—just ziti, penne, or mostaccioli and that I should just buy 3 jars of bottled sauce to pour over it because that’s what all the other parents did.  I smiled, thanked her, and thought, “A jar of Ragú?  Not in this lifetime.”

On the day of the meet, I made a huge batch of sauce and cooked up 3 lbs. of mostaccioli.  I figured at least my two daughters and several of their friends could enjoy it rather than the other pasta with bottled sauce.  I lovingly layered it in a large pan with freshly grated Romano cheese and brought it to the meet where one of the dads who was manning the food table took it from me.  As I watched, he turned and dumped my offering into a huge vat of other pasta and returned my pan to me!  While I stood there in stunned disbelief, he started stirring it all in with a paddle not much smaller than a rowing oar.  Aack!!

You probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that I signed up for desserts after that.

Tomato Sauce

Printer-friendly version


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 to 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 28-oz. can tomato puree
  • Approx. 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried basil (see Notes below for substituting fresh basil for dried)
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 lb. hamburger, optional


Fry onion in olive oil over medium heat in 3-qt. sauce pan for approximately 8 to 10 minutes.  When onion has softened and is starting to turn brown, add garlic and sauté for 30 to 60 seconds until garlic turns light golden.  Immediately add can of tomato puree and water, stirring to blend.  Add basil, salt and pepper.  Bring to a bubble and turn heat down to a simmer.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  If sauce is too thick, add a little more water to desired consistency.

If you want to make a meat sauce, in a separate frying pan, brown a half pound of hamburger, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Drain fat and add hamburger to sauce.


If you double the sauce, do not double the salt.  When I double the sauce, I usually add 2 tsp. salt, and it’s plenty.  As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea not to double the salt when doubling most recipes.

Source:   A frantastic original

Substituting Dry Herbs for Fresh and Fresh for Dry

Q – How much fresh herbs or spices should be used in place of dried and vice-versa?

A – In general, you can substitute one teaspoon of dried herbs for one tablespoon of fresh herbs and vice-versa (which is a one-to-three ratio, by the way).  But let taste be your guide.  Packaged dried herbs start out with a stronger taste than fresh herbs, but lose their pungency as they age. So if you’ve recently purchased the container, you might want to use a light hand, or add a bit more if the herb is older. When possible, use fresh ingredients to gain the most flavor.

5 comments on “Tomato Sauce

  1. Pingback: Eggplant Parmigiana

  2. Alex on said:

    Super easy and amazingly delicious! Also a great way to use the bazillion tomatoes we have growing in our garden.

    P.S. “I smiled, thanked her, and thought, ‘A jar of Ragú? Not in this lifetime.’” —laughed out loud when I read this gem

    • Fran on said:

      Glad to have provided a chuckle! I wasn’t laughing at the time, but enough time has passed that I can laugh at the memory now.

  3. This recipe looks great! I have a quick question though–how many servings is this?! I’m looking at making it for a party that’s gonna have around 12-14 people, how many batches do you think I’ll need? Thanks! :)

    • Casey, one batch serves 4 to 5 people, depending on how much sauce they like to spoon over their pasta. I would definitely make three batches. My mother’s motto was is you don’t have any leftovers, you didn’t make enough! For 3x the recipe, I would triple everything EXCEPT the salt and onion. I would use 2 1/2 to 3 tsp. of salt for 3x, and two large onions should be enough. I don’t know if you’re aware, but the more onion you put, the sweeter the sauce gets. I like to keep it on the savory side. Be sure to serve your pasta with plenty of fresh Romano or Parmesan cheese! I haven’t gotten around to posting my meatballs yet, but if you take a pound of hamburger, add one egg, and enough of my Italian bread crumbs (recipe posted), and bake or fry them after forming them to size you want, you’ll have a fabulous addition to the pasta. Of course, you’d have to triple those quantities as well to have enough for your crowd. Have fun and let me know how the sauce turns out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


HTML tags are not allowed.

Previous post:

Next post: