Store bought jar pasta sauce is often filled with preservatives and mystery spices and cost to much for what it is and I have never found one that I liked as much as the super easy one I make at home regularly. I wish I could get perfect off the vine tomatoes from my garden, everything fresh a al Martha Stewart but that isn’t my life. But seriously just because it doesn’t come right from the garden it doesn’t mean I am required to resort to that stuff from a jar. This is a great compromise sauce. And it lasts in the fridge at least a week and it is cheap, and ridiculously simple.
What you will need:
- a pot that will hold at least 2 litres
- something to stir with
- a blender – to make it smooth
- can opener
- 2 796ml (28 ounce) cans of plain tomatoes ( diced or whole or salt free all work I prefer salt free) – whatever brand you like best. When you see them on sale buy many cans – they are a staple of any pantry. Canned tomatoes often taste much better than the fresh varieties you buy at the grocery store here most of the year.
- 2 ish tsp Italian spice blend (recipe below and in post) and a bay leaf. Or a combination of these spices: parsley; basil ( basil makes tomato flavour sing 🙂 ; marjoram or oregano; thyme; a bay leaf; chili powder or chili flakes or a good Hungarian hot paprika ( see note below re: paprika) for a spicy kick; and pepper.
- 3-5 cloves of fresh garlic ( or 1tsp garlic powder)
- 2 cups of stock (low or no salt preferred) , or water
- fancy molasses or sugar or brown sugar
- a half teaspoon salt ( if using no salt broth and tomatoes)
- optional delicious add-ins I’ve tried: 1-2 cups of sliced mushrooms, one onion, or hard goat cheese (or I for those of you who eat cow cheese – Parmesan), a shake of Worcestershire sauce, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Get all the tools and food items you will need.
Peel and cut off the hard spot on the bottom of each clove of garlic.
Add garlic and stock to the blender (I mostly use no salt, beef stock in this because beef and tomatoes go so beautifully together) or chicken or vegetable and blend until garlic is chopped up nicely. (this is where I add in my onions and blend them up to)
Place the pot on the stove and turn the burner on to medium heat.
Add stock and garlic blend to pot.
Open the cans of tomatoes, and pour them into the blender. Blend on low speed to start then increase and pulse a few times. The colour of the tomatoes with lighten as you blend. (Canned tomatoes are notorious for their high sodium levels – check carefully – if there are no salt cans available always get the no salt.)
Pour in the blended tomatoes.
Add spices and stir. (this is where I add finely chopped/grated button mushrooms) – if you have no salt stock and tomatoes – add a few shakes of salt)
When it boils, turn it down to low/medium heat or simmer. Check on the pot every 15 to 20 minutes or so. The sauce will reduce and reduce until gets a thicker.
I simmer it, on low. Give it an hour and taste it and assess if it needs anything.
If it is acidic tasting (sharp almost sour, mouth puckering) – add a little sweetness – I use fancy molasses (not regular cooking molasses) – and add a teaspoon and stir and see what it taste like- still too acidic? add a little more. ( about a half teaspoon of sugar or brown sugar works this same way too.) This can also help if both your stock and tomatoes had high sodium counts – to balance out the saltiness.
if it is bland add a bit of pepper, a bit of salt. ( if no salt ingredients then 3-4 shakes then taste again)
I usually add a bit of balsamic vinegar (balsamic vinegar makes tomatoes extra delicious) – if you have the really expensive thick aged awesome stuff – don’t cook it use it at the last possible moment. if you have the regular costco stuff you can cook it a while. The amount I add varies – if the tomatoes were very acidic then I have to make sure things balance – so I have to add some more sweetness.
If it needs something and I can’t quite figure out what I usually give it a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce (not vegan) – or even a touch of siracha or Louisiana hot sauce but it’s not necessary at all.
So cook it a bit more – You don’t have to stir it regularly just check on it every 15-20 minutes or so. When it is done it will have reduced significantly in volume in the pot. I usually look for the sauce to be about a half an inch below where the sauce started.
Let it cool a little, take out the bay leaf if you used one and (then if you want you can add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and give it a good stir). Spoon into in glass jars ( mason jars or leftover cleaned jars ) or containers and put in the fridge 🙂 – and make some pasta!
This sauce is also a good one for simmering chicken or fish or other proteins in.
Italian Spice Blend
What you will need for one jar:
- measuring spoons
- a bowl for stirring
- a small spice jar or storage container
- 3-4 heaping tsp basil and parsley preferably leaves
- 2 tsp marjoram ( I have ground)
- 2 tsp thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon sage
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika and 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika (not that grocery store mystery paprika – if it isn’t labelled either sweet or hot and it isn’t from Hungary it’s not worth buying)
(Buy spices in bags, or bulk, not jars to save money. You can get glass jars for a dollar or two at the dollar store.)
So I go about this by spooning a half teaspoon at a time, layer by layer of spices, to make sure it fits in my special labelled spice jar (paper and scotch tape. Then I pour the spices into a bowl and stir thoroughly. And then funnel them back into my jar.
Because I tend to use fresh garlic and onion regularly I don’t add onion or garlic powder but you are completely welcome to – I would suggest a teaspoon or two of each.
If you prefer oregano or have it at home then use it instead of marjoram or use 1 tsp of each – I suggest if you use oregano to use less sage. But the key is to use what you like – the mix and each spice should smell good to you – if a spice doesn’t smell goo to you you probably won’t like the taste of it.
I use this mix on chicken, fish, beef, pork, turkey, tofu, etc. And in soups and sauces.