While I’ve never done a blind tasting, my guess is that 10 out of 10 people would be able to tell the difference between jarred pasta sauce and homemade pasta sauce….and prefer the latter. So if you’re looking for a recipe for homemade pasta sauce from scratch, keep reading.
This is one of those recipes I’ve been tinkering with for quite some time – and I doubt that I’m done. For now, this is one awesome homemade pasta sauce to go on pizzas, pasta, polenta and even pancakes. OK, I’m kidding about the pancakes.
Making Homemade Pasta Sauce
If you’re fortunate to have fresh tomatoes, this is a great recipe for you. In Chicago, tomato season lasts about 3 weeks, so I use canned tomatoes (which are now widely available in cans without the BPA-laden liner). In this case, it’s a mix of crushed tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes (go with San Marzano Tomatoes if you feel like being a big spender). Whatever you do, don’t get any tomatoes that are already seasoned. Some unfortunately will contain basil, oregano and an unnecessary amount of sodium. You’re in control of the seasoning, not them.
I’m also using a can of tomato paste here. I found that without it, the sauce tended to be watery. This is rather undesirable for pizza and can make the crust soggy while cooking. The addition of the paste not only helps thicken the sauce, but gives it an even more robust tomato flavor.
Other Ingredients for Homemade Pasta Sauce
For other ingredients, I like fennel seed. Toast them ahead of time to really open up their flavor and give an added earthiness to the sauce. It also helps make your dish pork-friendly. Any sort of canadian bacon, ham, sausage or pepperoni will go great with the fennel in the sauce. If you want to give it a more traditional pasta sauce flavor, add the Italian Seasoning Mix. If you have some on your shelf, make sure it’s no more than 6 months old or it’s going to be bitter and ruin the sauce. I like to buy small amounts from the bulk section at Whole Foods and write on the lid when to toss it out.
This recipe is definitely built for scale and the quantities below will get you through several meals. Because of the time involved I like to make a large batch and freeze the rest. If you have a super large stockpot, feel free to dial it up even more.
The only thing I haven’t figured out is how to can homemade pasta sauce to save it all.
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Large White Onions
- 2 Tablespoons Crushed Garlic
- 2 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Fennel Seed
- 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning Mix optional
- 6 Ounce Can of Tomato Paste
- 2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil, Divided
- 2 28 Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 28 Ounce Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
Heat the olive oil in a stockpot over medium low heat. Add the garlic first and give it about 30 seconds alone in the oil.
Add your onion, raise to medium heat, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes
Add the sugar, fennel seed and seasoning mix. Stir this in well and give it 2-3 minutes to work into the onion and garlic
Carefully pour in the (undrained) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed tomatoes. Stir and then add the tomato paste and 1 tablespoon of the basil
Optional: add a splash of vodka or rum
Bring this to a boil and then simmer for the next 30 minutes. The longer the better. Add the remaining basil just prior to plating.