The key to good, whole food is good, whole ingredients. I grew up thinking I hated apples, because all I’d ever been exposed to were the grocery store wax-coated mostly-tasteless “red” or “green”. However, I absolutely loved (and still love) spinach, because my grandfather grew it in his garden. Only years later, when I first tasted an apple off an orchard tree, did it all click for me. I realized I actually do like apples. A lot. Only they have to be real. I immediately had to go out and try all of the fruits and vegetables I thought I didn’t like – only I had to try them fresh from someone’s garden, or from a farmers’ market. Turns out I adore brussels sprouts, eggplant, red bell peppers, and kale. I think it works the same way with pasta sauce. It’s best if you make the sauce from garden tomatoes. Lacking those, grocery store tomatoes will do. Anything is better than canned sauce, chock- full of salt, sugar, and chemicals. Simple is best. This is more of a recipe guideline – you’ll notice no measurements and a range of optional ingredients. It’s how I learned to cook – all of my grandmother’s “recipes” were handed down to me as lists of ingredients. Frameworks, really. Pasta sauce then becomes more of a celebration of whatever is on hand, whatever is in season, in whatever amount you have it.
Create Your Own So Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce Fast
Tomatoes, garlic, sea salt, basil or oregano, olive oil
Basic Sauce: To make the basic sauce, peel a few cloves of garlic (more or less according to your taste), and smash them or push them through a garlic press. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, and add the garlic. After a minute, add 2 or 3 cups of chopped tomato. This can be around three to seven tomatoes, depending on tomato size (I use however many I have on hand). Add a few teaspoons of basil or oregano (or more if using chopped fresh herbs), and then about a teaspoon of salt. Stir for a minute or so, then taste and adjust seasoning – you may want to add salt or more herbs. Heat a few more minutes, so that the tomatoes begin to break down but are still chunky and defined. Viola! Fresh sauce.
Onion, carrots, celery, eggplant and/or broccoli (really, any vegetable you like will do)
Sauce With Added Veggies: If using any optional ingredients, begin with them FIRST, as they will need to cook longer. The beauty of making your own basic tomato sauce is that you can use any vegetables you like. The only things to remember are to dice your veggies so they are small, and to saute your vegetables in order of cooking time – vegetables that take longest should go in first. Dice an onion, carrot, and a few celery stalks. If using eggplant, dice about half a medium-sized eggplant. It seems like a lot at first, but shrinks as it cooks. If using broccoli, dice enough for half a cup or so (or to your liking). Saute the onions in oil over high heat until almost translucent, then add the garlic, carrot, and celery. Saute a few minutes. Add the garlic. If using eggplant, add a bit more oil and then the eggplant. Eggplant absorbs a lot of liquid, so you may need to add more oil or some water. Saute several minutes until the eggplant is translucent, then add the broccoli. Saute a bit longer – only a minute or two, because you want your broccoli to be bright green and still crisp, not the sort of mush-green broccoli you’d get at a cafeteria – and then add in your tomatoes. Season with salt, basil, and/or oregano. (Try a few teaspoons of basil and oregano first, and then add more if you need to. If using fresh herbs, add a few tablespoons, then add more if you need to.) Cook a few minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings. You may need more salt or herbs. Cook down until sauce is combined but still chunky and fresh.
Photo Credits: Simon Howden