I start with a huge can of San Marzano Tomatoes. They are, without question, the very best. Some good brand names to look for are Cento, Muir Glen, Sclafani, Tuttorosso, or any San Marzanos that list "DOP" on the label (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta).
I also chop one large Spanish onion, and mince 5-6 big cloves of garlic.
I like to buy whole tomatoes and process them myself. Today I'm pureeing my tomatoes because I'm feeding a picky eater who doesn't like chunky tomatoes, but you make them as chunky or pureed as you like. A blender or food mill can also be used.
If the kids are around, they like to help me crank the tomatoes through a food mill. It's kind of fun.
After the tomatoes are processed, blended, or milled, you end up with pureed tomatoes that look like this. Set them aside for now.
Okay, in a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan over med-high heat, saute the onions in olive oil until they are nice and caramelized.
Add 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and pepper. You have to season every step of the way.
Yum. Cook your onions until they're caramelized like this. They're going to add an incredible depth of flavor to the sauce.
Now it's time to add the minced garlic. Don't add it earlier that now or it will burn and taste bitter. Saute the garlic with the onions for just about 30-60 seconds, stirring well so the garlic doesn't burn. As soon as that wonderful garlicy aroma fills the kitchen...
...add a whole can of tomato paste and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes until the tomato paste darkens and starts to caramelize (again, adding even more depth of flavor).
Here's a tip - keep a cup of water (or a splash of red wine) near the stove top. The minute you notice any spots getting too brown - like you see here at 10 O'clock...
...add a splash or two. It will bubble up and dissolve the spot and keep your food from burning. The technical term for this is called "deglazing".
See - the liquid evaporated and the dark spot is all gone (actually, it's been incorporated into the sauce), but nothing has burned!
Okay, time to add the reserved tomato puree and most of the remaining ingredients (everything except the fresh basil). Simmer for about an hour. Just before serving, remove the bay leaves and add the fresh basil.
I hope you'll give this sauce a try. Let me know how you like it. Enjoy!
San Marzano Tomato Sauce
makes about 12 cups (enough to feed a big Italian family with plenty of leftovers!)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 jumbo onion, diced
- 5-6 garlic cloves (pressed, crushed, or minced)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 6 pound can San Marzano whole tomatoes (pureed until smooth in food processor, blender, or food mill)
- 3 tablespoons dried parsley
- 4 dried bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (kids might find this amount a tad spicy - adults usually love it - I double it)
- *Fresh basil, chopped or torn (as much as you like, but don't add until serving)
- Over med-high heat, saute onions, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in olive oil until caramelized (I save the leftover oil from jarred sun-dried tomatoes to use for things like this).
- Add garlic and stir constantly for 30-60 seconds, or until very fragrant.
- Add tomato paste and caramelize for 3-5 minutes; stirring constantly.
- Add pureed tomatoes, bay leaves, dried oregano, dried basil (don't add the fresh basil yet), red pepper flakes, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper; stir to combine.
- Simmer on low for about an hour.
- Remove bay leaves.
- Add fresh basil just before serving.
- You can simmer this sauce longer if you like, but you don't need to.
- For meat sauce, I like to add Italian sausages or ground beef that has been browned with lots of onion and garlic.
- If you happen to have a rind of Parmesan cheese leftover, throw that in too (it won't really melt into the sauce, but it will add a lot of great flavor).
- For a smaller batch, use a 28oz can of tomatoes and scale the recipe down to 1/3.