Every Italian family has their tomato sauce recipe. My mother and grandmother have their special recipe that I request to have frozen for my freezer quite often. There are obviously variations, secret ingredients, different cooking times, etc. But the basic, heart of the recipe stays pretty much the same in all marinara sauces. The only thing that I have omitted that is in most other marinara sauce recipes is sugar. This is added to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, but I honestly feel like it covers up the robustness of the tomatoes. Plus, refined sugar is terrible for you.
Now that I have a toddler, I’ll admit that most of time that I need a tomato sauce, I will used the premade jarred kind. I have found a few good brands at my local health food store that does not contain sugar or preservatives or highly processed oils. As great as a store bought sauce can be, nothing beats a homemade one. But I don’t have time to simmer a sauce all day. Although simmering it for longer will deepen the flavor, a quick cooking is just as delicious and keeps the freshness and vibrancy of the tomatoes.
If a recipe does not call for fresh tomatoes (which is even more work and using very fresh and ripe tomatoes is a requirement), it calls for cans of crushed tomatoes. The thing I worry about, however, is that chemicals like BPA leech into the tomatoes from the can. There are many manufacturers that make BPA free cans, but recent studies have shown that their petroleum based counterparts are just as harmful. Tomatoes are very acidic and break down these chemicals from the can quite easily, so avoiding them is best. Luckily, I’ve been seeing more and more companies offer jarred tomatoes.
You can leave this as is and it would be perfect over pasta, in a casserole like lasagna, or for dipping something like zucchini fries. Great additions to the sauce would be red pepper flakes, mushrooms, spinach, or even red lentils for a pack of protein.
Basic Tomato Sauce
-1 jar of crushed tomatoes (or a 32 ounce can)
-3-4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
-3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– ~6 tablespoons red wine
-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
-salt and pepper to taste
1. Saute garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat; be very careful not to burn the garlic. Only cook until fragrant and slightly golden, not brown. Add herbs and seasonings.
2. Stir in the tomatoes and the wine. Bring to a low boil and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, or longer if you like.
3. Enjoy immediately, or let cool and freeze for later use!