Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tomato Sauce Recipe - Romance on a Budget

A tomato sauce recipe that you can make for as little as $2 a jar -- or just a bit more if you include all the optional ingredients.

Tomato Sauce Recipe Basic Ingredients
I made my first home-made pasta sauce at the age of 12. It was the first home-made meal that I ever prepared all by myself. I was trying to impress a girl, of course, and despite the fact that the recipe only made enough sauce for one quarter of my guests, this romantic ploy worked beyond my wildest dreams. It worked so well, in fact, that I had to figure out what to do with the girl! For the record, my luck soon deserted me. I didn't sort out the girl part for many, many years.

Tomato pasta sauce isn't cheap -- not by my skinflint standards, anyhow. A simple jar of basil and tomato sauce can run you anywhere from $2.50 (for a lame pasta sauce) to $8 (for a deluxe, gourmet pasta sauce). Regardless, the basic ingredients are the same: tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil and other seasonings. Does it have to be so expensive? With some energy and creativity it really doesn't, and you may find that you like your own sauce better than many of the store-bought varieties.

Tomato Sauce Recipe Chopped IngredientsHere is a very simple pasta sauce recipe that can be modified and tweaked until you feel it is perfect. The key to making the project worth the effort is making at least four jars at a time and carefully canning them yourself. You can refrigerate or freeze the sauce instead of canning but I recommend canning for long-term storage and best flavor.

The ground or crushed tomatoes should be purchased in bulk -- assuming you care about cost. Unless you grow them yourself, you will probably never find fresh tomatoes more cheaply than you can buy them canned in 6 1/2 lb cans. So save yourself the hassle (and a little money, too) and just use the canned variety. It's not a cardinal sin. Really.

You can find great prices on ground or crushed tomatoes at restaurant supply stores, club stores like BJ's., and even your local supermarket. I paid $4.49 for my 6lbs 9oz can of Cento All-In-One Tomatoes at my local Price Rite Supermarket. Cento is a decent quality brand imported from Italy and it makes a really nice sauce. That one can, with the other ingredients listed below, will make four jars of premium tomato pasta sauce.

"Romance on a Budget" Tomato Sauce Recipe

1 6lbs 9oz can tomatoes (Cento All-In-One Tomatoes yielded excellent results)
3 T dried basil (or 1 cup chopped fresh)
1/2 T dried oregano (or 1 1/2 T chopped fresh)
3 medium sized onions
1 lb peppers -- one red, one green (optional)
1 head garlic -- about 10 cloves (use more if desired)
4 T olive oil (or more as necessary)
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
1 T salt (or to taste)
1 T sugar
(makes 4 jars)


  1. Open the canned tomatoes and pour into large, stove top stockpot. Use red wine (or a little water) to rinse the remaining tomatoes out of the can and into the stockpot.

  2. Turn heat to low or medium low ("2" is a good setting on my gas stove) and cover while chopping remaining ingredients. The pot should be bubbling happily within 15 or 20 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes and make sure to check the bottom with your spoon to prevent burning. If the sauce shows the slightest signs of sticking, turn down the heat!

  3. Chop onions and (optional) peppers into small, diced bits.

  4. Heat 1 T olive oil on medium low heat until it starts to shimmer in the pan, then add the dried basil and oregano to the oil. Saute for 30 seconds and then remove the herbs from the saute pan and add them to tomatoes.

  5. Add more oil to saute pan (this should not take long). Crush the garlic, using a garlic press, into the oil and saute for for 30 seconds.

  6. Saute for Pasta Sauce Recipe
  7. Add onions and (optional) peppers to garlic/olive oil mixture (adding more oil if necessary) and continue to saute until onions are translucent and sweet. (Note: I sauteed the vegetables in two batches because my pan could not comfortably hold them all. Don't crowd your saute pan.) You can cover the pan to partially steam the vegetables for a few minutes but you should mostly be sauteing.

  8. Add vegetables, sugar and salt to the bubbling sauce.

  9. Simmer sauce, covered, on low heat for a minimum of 2 hours, stirring once every 15 minutes or so. Continue to feel the bottom of the pan with your stirring spoon to be sure nothing is sticking.

  10. Carefully can any tomato sauce that you do not intend to use in the next day or two. I do not feel qualified to give canning instructions but you can easily find them elsewhere on the Internet. Don't cut corners when canning tomatoes as there are some risks if you do it badly.

Home Canned Tomato Sauce
You can add other ingredients, like meat, sauteed mushrooms, etc. to this pasta sauce just before serving it or half way through simmering it. I like to keep a more generic sauce on hand for the sake of flexibility but that is really up to you.

One final word of caution: if you plan to make this tomato sauce recipe for your date, be sure to have the girl part (or the boy part) sorted out well in advance.

Bon Appetit!

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