Tomato sauce is a yummy and versatile ingredient that you can add to pasta, rice, soups, and other dishes and appetizers. Making your own is a great way to preserve extra tomatoes from the garden, and a great way to get a dose of vitamins and nutrients in winter when tomatoes aren’t growing. A basic sauce is easy to make and can be used as a base for other things, but you can also make variations that include vegetables and other ingredients.
Basic Tomato Sauce
15 pounds (6.8 kg) ripe tomatoes
½ cup (119 ml) red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons (12 g) salt
Tomato Primavera Sauce
10 ripe tomatoes, stemmed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
2 tablespoons (28 g) butter
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup (6 g) fresh basil, chopped
¼ teaspoon (0.25 g) Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
¼ cup (59 ml) Burgundy wine
2 stalks celery
2 tablespoons (28 g) tomato paste
3 tablespoons (57 g) salt
½ cup (119 ml) olive oil
½ cup (113 g) tomato paste
1 tablespoon (14 g) hot red-pepper flakes
1½ cups (300 g) tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup (59 ml) hot water
1 Basic Tomato Sauce
Collect your supplies and ingredients. Basic tomato sauce is made with just a few ingredients. To make this easy and versatile sauce, you’ll need all your ingredients, plus:
- Small knife
- Large pot
- Large bowl filled with ice water
- Slotted spoon
- Large mixing bowl
- Food processor
- Mixing spoon
- Sterilized jars and lids for storage
Stem the tomatoes. With a small knife, cut the stem from the tomatoes by cutting an angled hole around the stem, about a half inch (13 mm) deep. Pop the stem out of the tomato.
To prepare the tomatoes for blanching, cut a small and shallow X in the bottom of each one.
Blanch the tomatoes. Blanching means to boil something for a brief time and then drop it into ice water to stop the cooking process. Blanching helps to make vegetables more vibrant in color, and makes them easier to peel. To blanch the tomatoes:
Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Fill a large bowl with equal amounts of ice and water.
When the water is boiling, boil the tomatoes in batches of four or five. Leave each batch in for 45 seconds to a minute, until the skin begins to split.
Remove the tomatoes with the slotted spoon and drop them immediately into the ice bath. After about 30 seconds, remove the tomatoes from the ice bath with the slotted spoon and transfer them to a mixing bowl.
Repeat until you have blanched all the tomatoes.
Peel and chop the tomatoes. Use your fingers to peel the skin off the tomatoes. It should peel off easily, thanks to the blanching process. Discard the skins and transfer the tomatoes to a food processor or blender.
Pulse the tomatoes a few times until you achieve the desired consistency for your sauce. You can leave the sauce chunky, or continue pureeing until it’s smooth.
If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can chop the tomatoes into small pieces with a knife. If you like to seed your tomatoes to try to get a smoother sauce, now is the time.
Cook the tomatoes. Transfer the tomatoes to a large pot. Heat them over medium heat and bring them to a simmer. For a thinner and runnier sauce, simmer the tomatoes for about 30 minutes. For a thicker and richer sauce, simmer for 90 minutes. For a sauce that’s between thick and runny, simmer for about an hour.
While the sauce is simmering, you can also add a few other ingredients for flavor, such as a few cloves of minced garlic, a bay leaf, or a couple sprigs of fresh basil or oregano.
Add the remaining ingredients. When the sauce has reached the desired consistency, add the red wine vinegar and salt. You can add as much or as little salt as you like, to taste, and can also substitute lemon juice for the vinegar.
The extra acid from the vinegar will act as a preservative if you want to can the sauce or keep it in the fridge. To turn your basic tomato sauce into vodka sauce, portion out 4 cups (900 g) of the tomato sauce, and heat it with 1 cup (237 ml) of vodka and ½ cup (119 ml) of heavy cream.
Use immediately or store for later. If you’re going to use the sauce within one to two weeks, transfer the leftovers to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze the sauce for up to three months, or can the sauce to keep it preserved for about a year.
To can the sauce, transfer the hot sauce to hot, sterile mason jars. Fit each jar with a clean lid and ring. Process the jars in a pot of boiling water for 30 minutes. Remove from the water and cool for 12 to 24 hours.
2 Tomato Primavera Sauce
Blanch and peel the tomatoes. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. While the water is heating up, fill a large bowl with equal quantities of cold water and ice. When the water boils, place the tomatoes into the pot and boil them for about a minute, long enough to loosen and wrinkle the skins. Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water.
Leave the tomatoes in the cold water for 30 seconds to a minute. This will stop the cooking process immediately and cool the tomatoes.
Blanching makes it easier to peel fruits and vegetables.
Chop and puree the tomatoes. Peel the skin off the tomatoes with your fingers. If you want, you can also squeeze the seeds out if you don’t want them in the sauce. Transfer eight of the tomatoes to a blender and puree them until smooth.
With the remaining two tomatoes, chop them roughly into small chunks.
Cook the vegetables. Melt the oil and butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, carrot, and garlic. Sauté for five to 10 minutes, until the onions turn translucent and begin to turn golden brown.
You can substitute any or all of the green pepper for red, yellow, or orange pepper.
You can also add five to 10 chopped mushrooms to the sauce, a chopped zucchini, or a small head of broccoli, chopped.
Add the remaining ingredients except for the tomato paste. Pour in the tomato puree, the chopped tomatoes, all the herbs, the wine, and the two whole celery stalks. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat.
The celery stalks don’t need to be chopped because you will remove them from the sauce before serving. Simmer the sauce and add the tomato paste halfway through. When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and place a lid on the pot. Simmer the sauce for about two hours, then add the tomato paste.
Stir in the tomato paste and continue simmering the sauce for another two hours.
You don’t have to simmer the sauce for the full four hours, but cooking it for the full length of time will yield a thick, rich, and flavorful sauce. Cooking the sauce for one to two hours will result in a sauce that’s slightly runnier and not quite as rich.
Remove the celery and bay leaf before serving. When the sauce has simmered for four hours or the desired amount of time, remove the celery stalks with a pair of tongs, and use a slotted spoon to remove the bay leaf. Serve the sauce hot with pasta, rice, or vegetables.
3 Arrabbiata Sauce
Cook the tomato paste and pepper flakes. Arrabbiata is a quick and easy tomato sauce. It’s spicier than some other tomato sauces, and it’s slightly richer because you cook the tomato paste right in the oil.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. You’ll be adding the tomatoes to this, so use a pan with high walls. Add the tomato paste and hot pepper flakes to the hot oil. Turn the heat to low and stir all the ingredients together. Cook the mixture for about four minutes.
Add the tomatoes and water. Pour the tomatoes in to the frying pan with the tomato paste. Stir to combine, and then remove the pan from the heat. Pour in the hot water and stir everything to combine.
You can also use red wine in place of the water.
It’s best to make this sauce fresh while you’re making the pasta to serve it with. When you cook the pasta, reserve ¼ cup (59 ml) of the water when you drain the pasta, and use that to add to the arrabbiata sauce. Because pasta water has some leftover starch from the pasta, it will help to thicken the sauce.
Serve tossed with pasta. Add cooked pasta to the arrabbiata sauce and toss them together to coat the pasta with the sauce. Garnish with salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and cheese, to taste.