Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nothing Beats Homemade Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce, as I call it, or gravy/tomato gravy, as others call it, is one of those foods that people are very passionate about. I'm sure major debates could be held to argue what makes the best sauce or gravy, and I have a feeling those debates could get ugly!

When I talk to friends or meet new people who like to cook, I like to ask what makes their tomato sauce the best. I have heard so many different responses - the type of tomatoes, the length time it simmers, starting it with meat, or simply because it's a secret family recipe that has been passed down for generations.

I have made tomato sauce several times, and the last time I made it, it was really good but I still felt that I could improve it somehow. So yesterday, on a cold and rainy Saturday after hearing Jon recommend meatballs and spaghetti for dinner, I set out to do just that. I looked back on all the times I made sauce, pulled together what I liked, and added a few new things. I think I have a winner here... this was the best sauce I have ever made.

The big difference this time was the use of red wine. I have heard people talk about it and they swear you can't make a sauce without it. Now, I agree!

  • 1 onion chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic pressed
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 sm can tomato paste
  • 3 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 c dry red wine
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning blend (marjoram, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, basil)
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 3 turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ c water (if it will be simmering for a while, wait 45 min or so to decide if you'll need it)
  • Pinch white sugar, if needed (wait an hour)


  • In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat
  • Add onions and garlic; saute until softened, about 5 minutes, adding red pepper flakes halfway through
  • Add tomato paste and stir until completely mixed
  • Add tomatoes and sauce, stir. Add wine.
  • Add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Stir
  • Let simmer over low/medium-low heat, stirring every 15 minutes. After about 45 minutes, I noticed that it was a nice thick sauce, but I would be simmering for another 3 hours and didn't want it to get too thick. This is when I added the water.
  • After an hour or so, if it tastes too tart, add a pinch of sugar or two. I added one.
  • I let my sauce simmer for 4 hours before we ate. In the last 30 minutes, I dropped in the meatballs Jon baked. For the meatball recipe, click here.

I don't mean to toot my own horn too much, but this sauce was perfect. It wasn't too sweet or too tart, but had the perfect balance of rich tomato flavor with just enough garlic and seasoning.

Three hours after devouring 2 meatballs and a plate of spaghetti with sauce, I pulled the sauce back out and ate it with some crusty bread. I already had some leftovers for lunch, and am looking forward to toasted meatball subs for dinner. I think I may even need to make chicken parm tomorrow just to use more of this sauce.

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. GO PHILLIES!!!

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  1. Nice! I swear by Chianti for my sauce. I also like to add half at first when the onion and garlic are almost done sauting, and then the rest after the tomatoes have been added and the sauce is almost to a simmer. Glad you found a great sauce recip that you like!

  2. Homemade tomato sauce are so good! After that, the taste of tomato sauce in can is not so good:(

    I love your version of the recipe :)

  3. I made this sauce and your husband's meatballs last night and it was absolutely delicious! It was my first time making homemade meatballs, and they were perfect. Thank you for posting both recipes!

    Just a note - the ingredients called for red pepper flakes, but your instructions don't say when to add them. (Not a big deal at all, I just thought I'd let you know!)

    I can't wait for meatball subs tonight!

  4. Krystyna - I'm glad you liked the recipe and had good luck with the meatballs! Thanks for catching the red pepper flake thing - I updated it!

  5. I made this sauce along with my own version of meatballs for my daughter's baby shower and they were a big hit. The only thing I changed was I added 1/2 tsp of fennel and for the sugar at the end, I put about a tblsp of dark brown sugar as we like it a bit sweet. Excellent sauce recipe Mary Ellen, others at the shower were asking if it was homemade and of course I bragged, but I told them where I got the recipe. You may have a few more "lookers."

  6. Ellie - I'm so glad everyone liked it!! The brown sugar sounds interesting - I'll have to try that. And congrats on the upcoming birth of your grandchild!!