Pasta Sauce from Scratch

I’d like to learn to make pasta sauces from scratch, particularly using fresh tomatoes. I don’t have any growing in my own yard right now (no yard), but the farmers’ market always has tons of yummy looking tomatoes. I don’t like raw tomatoes though, and I’d really like to set in a store of local foods for the cold months.

This was one of my thoughts, freezing pasta sauce. I already have an awesome pesto from a friend that I’m making in large batches and freezing with the fresh basil I’m getting.

I don’t have much skill in cooking (my mother is so ashamed of me ;)), but I’m interested in learning. About fresh pasta sauce at least.

I don’t eat pork or red meat, but others in the thread may be interested, so post anything that you have that’s yummy. And if you have substitutions for the pork or red meat, so much the better!

The very simplest one I know…

Per person: 1 clove of garlic & one chilli, both chopped finely, four smallish tomatos, chopped into 8s, and a handful of fresh basil.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil, and fry the garlic & chilli for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatos, keep the heat high and stir regularly for about 4 minutes. Tear up some basil leaves and stir in. Serve with penne pasta.

That sounds yummy, and may become a dinner for next week.
With spinach salad. Mmmmm.

Whatever you do, don’t use ketchup. Blech.

Another simple one:

olive oil
1 smallish onion, chopped
1 clover garlic, chopped and crushed (optional)
2 - 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 - 2 Tbsp fresh basil or oregano, chopped

Saute the onions in the oil until soft, add the garlic and stir for about a minute, add the tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes. The sauce will get runny at first as the tomatoes give up their moisture, then thicken up a little from evaporation. When it’s as thick as you like it, stir in the herbs and season with salt and pepper.

Lute, that sounds so nasty I can’t even grasp it. People do this?

We use canned for simplicity, but there’s no reason you can’t use fresh.

One small can tomato paste (makes it nice and thick)
Two cans chopped tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes)
chopped onion
minced garlic
spices to taste (salt, oregano, pepper, etc)

Now, I found if you throw everything but don’t heat it, just let it sit for about an hour, it makes the flavors blend better. I don’t know if the acid in the tomatoes breaks down the onion and garlic or what, but it was the best sauce I’d made.

I think that’s just an urban legend. No one would be that depraved.

I appreciate your reassurance.

How’re we talking about using tomato sauce? It’s pretty much pureed tomatoes + vinegar + apple + salt + sugar, right? In small quantities, it can work pretty well in the place of tomato paste in a pasta sauce.

It’s almost impossible to screw up a tomato sauce for pasta. Just cook your onions for a minute, throw in any spices or other flavours (eg chilli paste, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, coriander seed), cook for a minute, throw in tomatoes and other vegies (eg capsicum, zucchini, broccoli), cook a little and serve. Infinitely variable. You can always experiment with red wine, vinegar and other interesting flavours too.

If you’re planning to freeze large quantities, remember that freezing can ruin the taste of some vegetables, especially the greener or leafier ones. If you love the taste of basil, for example, freeze the basic sauce then add fresh basil when you’re warming it on the stove. (BTW, the “basil” that comes in a jar is an abomination)

Yikes! Cook the onions for more than a minute! More like 20, on a low heat.

Sorry to disturb, but I’ve seen it. I had multiple housemates in Germany who would add ketchup to reheated spaghetti. Yuck. I’m hoping it was limited to the college-aged non-picky eater set.


Gorilla Man’s basic recipe is fine. Let me add a few pointers.

I used to never do this, but I think it makes a difference. A pretty important one. Peel your tomatoes and deseed them. To peel tomatoes, boil a pot of water. Dunk tomatoes in for 15-30 seconds. Remove. Place under cold running water, give them a gentle prick with a sharp knife, and the skins will come right off.
Cut in quarters and remove the seeds and the jelly-like inside. It really does help improve the consistency of the sauce.

My favorite sauce is a spicy arrabiata. I use a good extra-virgin olive oil (try something like Frantoia. If you want to be cheap, I find that Goya is actually pretty decent as well.) Be generous with your olive oil. A few tablespoons is OK. Instead of frying chiles, I throw in some red pepper flakes to taste (I like mine somewhat spicy, so I throw in a teaspoon or so). Throw in some finely minced garlic, too. Be careful. DO NOT LET YOUR GARLIC BURN. If it turns brown, it will be acrid. Toss it and start again.

Chop your tomatoes coarsely and throw 'em into your sauce pan. Let them cook down. You don’t need to cook this sauce more than 30-45 minutes. If it’s too liquid (and it shouldn’t be if you deseeded them), you can add some tomato paste to thicken things up.

Arrabiata doesn’t normally have basil (at least in my experience) but, like *GorillaMan, I usually toss some in at the end anyway.

Ahh!!! You’re making my head spin! You’re making a pasta sauce, not a curry. Coriander and cumin have no place in tomato sauces if you’re trying to at least give the guise of making Italian food. Sorry, but the “everything but the kitchen sink” method of making pasta sauce is a pet peeve of mine. Use the best freshest ingredients. Use them wisely. Cook your pasta al dente for Pete’s sake. That should be the mantra.

Aha, I wondered when the topic of peeling would emerge…I hate peeling tomatos. That’s the reason for the recipe I chose above - with small fruit, and chopped into 8s, they retain the skin, and the short cooking time means the skins don’t end up tough and stringy.

If I’m doing a recipe which will cook for some time, I still don’t bother peeling them - I prefer five minutes scooping out skins while they’re cooking to ten minutes faffing around with a pot of hot water :slight_smile:

Oh, and an extra tip about if you burn the garlic - toss the oil too, and clean the pan. Don’t do this, and the nasty taste can linger.

This makes me sad again. How icky.

Okay, GorillaMan’s sauce for dinner at some point next week. Maybe twice to experiment with skin removal.

I am looking to freeze sauce though. On top of it being farmers’ market time, I’m about to start school again, so the more I get in now, the happier I am later.

Oh, btw, I realise I forgot to mention the obvious for my recipe - add some salt!

See, now we get into my lack of cooking skills.

Why is this obvious?

…and just to emphasise (can you tell I got this recipe from an Italian, given how picky I’m being? :wink: )…I’m serious when I say to use a generous amount of oil. The idea is that it doesn’t just fry stuff, but also blends with the juices from the tomatos to make the saucy part of the sauce :slight_smile:

Good question. Why is salt to ubiquitous? (That’s a genuine question directed at the millions.) All I know is that I can think of very few recipes where I haven’t added salt, and where a naturally-salty ingredient hasn’t already been present. But the end result of the sauce in question, without salt, would be that it would have about one-tenth of the taste of a seasoned version.