Thursday, September 23, 2010

Veggie Might: Easy Tomato Sauce

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

For years I avoided making my own tomato pasta sauce based on several misconceptions:
1) Jarred sauce is fine
2) Making homemade tomato sauce is hard
3) You have to be Italian with instinctual sauce know-how

Let’s debunk these one at a time.

1) Jarred sauce is fine if you like bland sauce and don’t mind spending just as much time and effort “perking up” what comes out of the jar as you would making a batch from scratch. Plus, jarred sauces are high in sodium and preservatives that keep the smiling at you on the shelf for a good long time. They can also get expensive.

2) Making homemade tomato sauce is hard if you think chopping is hard. The rest is putting stuff in a pot and stirring. Really! Now what you put in the pot takes a little thought and alchemey, but there are recipes and gurus out there to guide you. Find one you like and make it your own. Before you know it, you’ll be making sauce without a recipe, just like an Italian auntie.

3) You have to be Italian with instinctual sauce know-how like I am Italian. There is not a twig or bit of Latin bark to be found anywhere on my Anglo-Saxon-Scots-Irish family tree, and I wear long sleeves to the beach. But I finally got over the fact that the absence of a sauce gene and an Italian nana shouldn’t stop me from kicking out some great sauce. My pal SL, her mama, and her Zia Stella would be proud.

My easy tomato sauce is so simple and pretty fast. You can make it with canned or fresh tomatoes, and it only takes about 40 minutes. You can cook the pasta while the sauce simmers. It’s ideal for a weeknight supper and keeps well for leftovers and lunches.

I made two versions of this sauce and both were delicious. You can mix and match ingredients and essentially choose your own adventure. Herbs can be swapped out based on your personal preferences or what you have around the kitchen.

Version 1: Fresh tomatoes and balsamic vinegar made a chunky, sweet sauce with loads of flavor. I used a 1/2 tbsp less sugar for this version, since balsamic vinegar is much sweeter than other vinegars, especially as it cooks down. The rosemary got a bit lost, but it was still quite delicious.

I forgot to peel or remove the seeds from the fresh tomatoes, and it wasn’t too much of an issue, but I recommend you do both of those things for a saucier sauce. Peeling tomatoes is so easy. Just drop the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds, remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and allow to cool. Then pierce the skin with a knife and the skin will peel right off.

Version 2: Canned diced tomatoes with red wine vinegar made a tangy, bright sauce that really highlighted the fresh rosemary. This sauce is gorgeous over sauteed vegetables and whole wheat pasta.

So that’s it. Cast away whatever crazy notions have been keeping you from making your own sauce and be Italian.


If you like this recipe, you may enjoy:
Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca
Pasta with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Mushrooms
Tomato Sauce II:Light Lidia’s Tomato Sauce


Easy Tomato Sauce

Serves 8

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (or 2 lbs fresh, diced + 1/4 cup water)
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar (or 1 tbsp if using balsamic vinegar)
1 tsp dried oregano (or 2 tsp fresh, chopped)
2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed (or 1 1/2 tbsp fresh, finely chopped)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook together for about 4 minutes or until onions are soft and translucent. Add oregano and rosemary to onion and garlic and cook for another minute or two.

2. To the vegetables, add tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, and sugar. Stir well, combining all flavors. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes up to 1 hour, adding water, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary. (I only added water when I used fresh tomatoes.)

3. Serve over your favorite pasta and vegetables, top with fresh basil or parsley, and share the story of how your zia from the old country taught you how to make sauce.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
52 calories, 1.8g fat, .75g fiber, .75g protein, $.64

Note: This recipe can be made with canned or fresh tomatoes. Cost was calculated based on recipe made with canned tomatoes.

1 tbsp olive oil: 120 calories, 14g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.08
1 large yellow onion: 52 calories, 0.3g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.65
6 cloves garlic: 25 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.07
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes: 132 calories, 0g fat, 6g fiber, 6g protein, $3.00
1 tbsp tomato paste: 12 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.62
2 tbsp red wine vinegar: 6 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.26
1 tbsp sugar: 67.5 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.04
sugar, granulated, 3 tsps: 45 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.03
1 tsp dried oregano: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1 1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.08
salt and pepper to taste: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.04
TOTALS: 417.5 calories, 14.3g fat, 6g fiber, 6g protein, $5.15
PER SERVING (totals/8): 52 calories, 1.8g fat, .75g fiber, .75g protein, $.64

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Jenny said...

You're so right about people not realizing how easy it is! I came up with a version of sauce the other day using fresh cherry tomatoes which does not involve chopping, except for very quickly chopping onion into large pieces. Everything gets roasted, so all you have to do is pop it into the oven and wait. When all is done, puree.

freeflying_soul said...

I would be very interested to know how the home-made version compares in in terms of sodium content to an average jarred sauce. Can you include that in your nutrients calculations?

DMBY said...

alright. . .I really have to try this! I've been one of the 'doctor it up' sauce makers, but this is too easy to pass up. Thanks!

M Family said...

Totally, I have been making my own sauce for a long time now, its so much yummier than the bottled, and I have not a drop of italian in me either. I will say that investing in a submersible blender is absolutely worth it, and kind of makes the peeling etc a moot point too! I tend to veggie mine out big time with Zuchinni etc, especially since my DD tends to reject Zuchinni now.

wosnes said...

I've been making my own sauce for years. I know I've purchased some in the past, but I can't remember when.

I do have a recipe for a sauce that requires longer cooking (but still less than an hour). It can be used "as is" or be the basis for a half dozen variations.

Laura said...

Why would you not make your own sauce? I grew up on homemade sauce and there is nothing like it. I toyed briefly with canned sauce in college, but I was misguided and I have seen the error of my ways.

For spaghetti I usually make a meat sauce. I do often use premade tomato sauce in this, but I'm talking pureed tomatoes, not a "tomato-based" sauce.

A fun version using fresh tomatoes is a spicy arrabiata. You just toss a few dried hot peppers into some hot olive oil for two or three minutes, add onion and garlic, and saute until softened. Then throw in the tomatoes and let it bubble away while your pasta cooks. Add some fresh basil and toss it all together. Yum.

Or, for something completely different, leave out the hot peppers, add a half cup of red wine, and when you toss it all together throw in some feta and fresh black pepper.

So yeah... I like tomato sauces.

Indian Restaurant Fan said...

People want everything instant these days, they do not know the taste and happiness what it gives if you prepare the dishes, soups with out the help of instant mixes and ready to eat products.

Maureen F said...

Even easier, if the fresh tomatoes are perfectly ripe: put them in a dutch oven whole and squish them in your hands. You can pick out the big pieces of peel if you're so inclined, and the sauce will suit chunkily as a sandwich addition if you have leftovers. I prefer seeds in my sauce.

I work at a farmer's market stand one day a week, and if people mention they're making sauce, I always throw in the extras that split on the ride to market. Ask your farmer for the splits and squishers.

Diane said...

Easy-peasy. I do it all the time. That's a lot of sugar though. I only add about a tsp or two.

limecloud said...

I made a big crock-pot of sauce similar to this back during the big snow storm last year and froze it in gallon containers. I add shredded carrots (the carrots add sweetness so you don't need sugar)and I cook it in the crock-pot on low for hours. I just ran out this week and I need to make a new batch. I'm totally going to try roasting everything like the first commenter suggested.

Brenda Pike said...

I made tomato sauce for the first time this year, and I don't think I'd go back. It's just a very basic recipe, super easy in the crockpot, but I was amazed at how good it was.

MagnoliaSouth said...

I've always made my own sauce and thought buying it in a jar was a silly notion.

One tip that I wanted to share, which I found on Food Network, is adding finely chopped carrots. Yes, you read that right, carrots!

It adds inexpensive nutrition and an interesting flavor. It does not take away from it at all. Giada De Laurentiis is the one who recommended it and it's an excellent tip. Now my tomato sauce always has it in there.

MagnoliaSouth said...

Yipes, two more tips I forgot to post!

Tip 1: Freeze sauce in plastic freezer containers (I use 2 cup containers) overnight, then the next day dip it in hot water for about 3 seconds and pop the frozen block out. Wrap it in foil, then place all foil-wrapped blocks in a gallon-size freezer bag. Naturally label them. They reheat wonderfully well! I don't thaw overnight either. I just place it in a sauce pot and heat over a low medium heat. It takes about 20 minutes to thaw that way and doesn't burn.

Tip 2: Easily remove tomato seeds, after blanching, by slicing the tomato in half (between the stem and bottom) then squeeze slightly. The seeds immediately rise to the top. Use a butter knife to scrape them off.

Maybe someone will find those helpful.