Tomato sauce is so widely available that we cooks often choose convenience over texture and flavor. The thing is, while commercial tomato sauce may cut down the cooking time, you also cut down on a lot of things. You pass off on the option to make a smooth or a chunky tomato sauce (yes, you have that choice!), you hand over to the tomato sauce manufacturer the freedom to determine how tomato sauce should be seasoned (there is only so much adjustment you can make with commercial tomato sauce) and, most significantly, you give the manufacturer the right to put additives and artificial ingredients into your body.
The good news is that it is very easy to make tomato sauce. There are no special equipment needed (although a blender is a huge convenience) and you only need to know the most basic of cooking skills. If you can boil, chop and stir, you can make tomato sauce.
The not so good news is that because tomatoes are not created equal — some may appear more orange than red — your tomato sauce may not have the attractive bright red color that you have come to love after years (maybe, decades even) of using commercial tomato sauce. There is a solution and it is not artificial food color. By adding paprika (made from dried bell peppers), you not only make your tomato sauce redder but you also make the flavors richer.
This recipe was originally published in 2009; this is an updated version especially posted for those who will be making pasta sauces over the holidays.
Homemade tomato sauce
Boil plenty of water in a pot. When the water is boiling briskly, add the tomatoes. Cook in boiling water until the skins burst, about one to two minutes depending on the ripeness of your tomatoes.
Cool the tomatoes a bit and peel off the skins.
Place the skinless tomatoes in the blender and process to your desired chunkiness. You may also do this by hand. I prefer the blender because I don’t lose any of the juices that way.
Heat the olive oil in a pan or pot. Over medium low heat, cook the chopped onion until translucent. You want the onion to sweat rather than brown so keep the heat down.
Crush and peel the garlic.
Discard the stalks of the oregano. Chop the leaves with the garlic.
Add the garlic and oregano to the onion. Cook, stirring, for about a minute.
Pour in the pureed tomatoes. Add about half a cup of water. Season with salt and pepper. Stir. Add a bit of sugar to cut down the acidity of the tomatoes. If the tomato sauce doesn't look as red as you want it, add paprika now — a teaspoonful at a time until you're happy with the color. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
And you have you homemade tomato sauce.
A good tomato sauce can be tossed with hot cooked pasta for a complete vegetarian meal. It is also a great base for pizza and stews.
Need holiday inspiration? Try these lasagna roll-ups with chunky meat sauce.