…when you can make your own??? I decided that buying tomato sauce was too costly and too unhealthy. Did you know that there can be sometimes as much as 10 g of sugar per 1/2 cup serving in store-bought tomato sauce? Don’t get me wrong; that stuff from Ragu and Prego tastes great, but there are a lot of additives that are not necessary, especially when you can make a 7-cup batch and freeze whatever you don’t plan on using within a week. Why would citric acid need to be added for “tartness”? Aren’t tomatoes acidic and tart enough? I’m just saying…I know what some of you store-bought sauce addicts are thinking. “It’s just tomato sauce, how bad can it be?” Or, “Aintnobodygottime to be making their own sauce when Prego’s on sale for 2 for $5 at the local neighborhood supermarket.” I am not going to go into the whole, “we need to pay more attention about what is going into the foods we ingest” diatribe, so I will just leave it at this: If you follow my recipe, you will be saying exactly what I said after making it: “I’m NEVER buying that manufactured stuff again!”
When I was trying to decide how I wanted my sauce to taste, one thing I knew was that I wanted lots of garlic; way more than the amount just about every recipe I reviewed, called for. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, you can never add too much garlic to your dishes. I mean, I guess, technically you can, but I’m just saying, if any recipe calls for 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, don’t feel like you’d be doing too much if you decide to throw a few more cloves into the mix. Now after tons of research (not really, but it sounds good), I came up with the following and it is sure to please. Now, please bear in mind, many of the herbs and spices I added to the pot were free-handed. I apologize in advance, but to me, the best way to add spices to the pot is by eye, and even more importantly, by taste. I literally (read: figuratively) tasted the sauce 2,453 times while it simmered, to determine what else needed to be added. The great thing about making tomato sauce is that just about everything in it is a kitchen staple. The only thing I needed to buy were the canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Ok, enough of this chit chatter. On to the sauce!
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 (28-oz) cans unsalted, crushed tomatoes (you can use whole, peeled tomatoes, but you may want to crush them before cooking)
4-6 basil leaves (or less if your canned tomatoes already has basil in them)
2 dried bay leaves1 tbsp. tomato paste (more if you like your sauce a little thicker) 3-4 tbsp. sugar or stevia if you’d prefer to go completely sugar-free (I used organic cane sugar)
3-4 tbsp. butter, optional (salted or unsalted works fine)
Himalayan pink salt and fresh cracked black pepper Optional dried herbs and spices: oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper, Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, and garlic powder (yes, even though you already have fresh garlic in the recipe)
1. In a large pot (4 qt. or larger), heat oil over medium high heat.
2. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes, until soft. I like to put the onion in first so that it can be a cushion for the garlic, as garlic burns pretty easily.
3. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper and the other spices if you choose to use them (I highly recommend it). Saute for a few minutes until all veggies are soft.
4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, and bay leaves and simmer covered on LOW heat for 1 hour or until thick.
5. Remove bay leaves and add additional seasonings to taste. Now is a good time to add some sugar if you find the sauce is a little too tart. I added the amount suggested in the ingredients. Even with that amount of sugar, you will consume less than 4 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup serving.
6. Learned this from watching Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis (Love her!): If sauce still tastes acidic, add butter, 1 tbsp. at a time to round out the flavors. I used 3 tbsp. salted butter, but you may require more.
7. Add half the tomato sauce into a food processor or blender. I used my NutriBullet! Pulse a few times until smooth. You will notice the color change lighten to a dark orange shade. No worries, it’s from the carrots. Add it back to the remaining sauce in the pot.
This sauce will taste great on pizza, pasta and meat… mmmm… I made mine with turkey meatballs and gluten-free pasta in mind, and it’s exactly what I had for dinner the night I tested the sauce recipe.
Another great idea I got from Chef Giada: If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into plastic freezer bags and defrost when ready to consume. Sauce will freeze well for up to 6 months, though it likely won’t last that long in your house!