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How do you make your tomato sauce?

...and please, PLEASE ... Don't call it gravy! I know different people call it different thing but for me, gravy is what you put on your turkey at Thanksgiving and sauce is what you put on your pasta. I cringe when I hear it tomato sauce called gravy. But hey, to each is own!

Also, I know everyone puts different thing in their...I recently went to a friend's house and he had fennel frawns in his sauce (and it was very good)... I like my sauce simple and other like to make it more complicated.

I'm in the process of figuring out my own version... but I'd like to hear how you make yours.

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  1. I absolutely agree with you about the "gravy" thing. I'm second generation Italian and I'ver never heard anybody refer to it by that name.

    Here are my tips:
    - I've done the San Marzano tomato thing and I don't get it. I use quality crushed tinned tomatoes
    - Saute lots of diced onions in lots of olive oil
    - Don't overcook the garlic or you'll get agita! I put the minced garlic in, and I mean a LOT of garlic, after the onions are well cooked and just before I add the crushed tomatoes. Don't cook the garlic for more that 1 minute.
    - Add good quality tinned tomato sauce to thin out the sauce. DON'T ADD WATER! It will only leech out later.
    - DON'T USE PASTE! Way too strong and the sauce will seize up like concrete.
    - Add good quality Italian sausage if you really want the sauce to taste good.
    - Cook the sauce for 45 minutes at low simmer.
    - In the palm of your hand, put a teaspoon of more each of dried oregano and basil leaves and pulverize between your fingers to release the oils. Add to sauce.
    - Add a tablespoon of sugar to cut the acid of the tomato

    3 Replies
    1. re: Scagnetti

      I need to contradict the suggestion to skip tomato paste. It's very important, but you need to use it right. After the onions and garlic are sauteed, add the tomato paste - one can should do it. Sautee the paste, stirring constantly, for about one minute. This cooks the paste and avoids a nasty raw tomato taste. It'll make a world of difference. Then, deglaze with red wine. Add your tomatoes, blended to your preferred thickness, along with oregano, basil, parsley, and crushed red pepper if you like it hot. Cook like crazy, seasoning to taste.

      Two important tricks - bake your meatballs and sausage ahead of time to remove a lot of grease, but make sure that you also cook the sauce for a while with the meat in it. That adds a ton of flavor. Also, don't forget that tomatoes love salt. Use it, and black pepper, as much as you personally like.

      And don't forget good parmesan on top!

      1. re: Scagnetti

        Some of the old-timers in Manhattan called red sauce "gravy;" but few people younger than 70 seem to. As for tomato paste: never a whole can! You should not need any at all; but I like to keep a tube in the fridge and add about 1 1/2 tsp. if the sauce is too loose. Or sometimes I'll just add grated parmesan or romano to help thicken it, if needed. And yeah, great sausage and good-quality crushed tomatoes are the key to a terrific sauce. I don't add sugar because the onions and pork in the sausage sweeten it enough for my taste. (The grated cheese also cuts the acidity a bit.) A bit of sweet paprika also will deepen the flavor (although I may be the only person in the world who uses it).

        1. re: Youffraita

          I like the paprika idea. Makes sense to me.

      2. 2 cups of chopped onions
        1 cup chopped celery
        1/2- 1 cup rough chopped peeled carrot
        6-7 cloves of garlic(to taste)
        Oregano-Basil, Rosemary, Fennel seed, bay leaves and a pinch of hot pepper flakes, (more if you like heat)
        2x 28 oz. chopped and peeled tomatoes
        1 small can if tomato paste
        2-3 cups of red wine
        salt-pepper and Olive oil to sweat the veggies.

        Place the chopped veggies (not tomatoes) plus oil to a large saucepan and sweat over low heat until they are translucent. 5-6 minutes on low.

        When the veggies are fragrant and translucent, add the spices and tomatoes and use the wine to rinse out the cans and add that in as well. Bring this back to a simmer and cover. reduce to the heat to low and stir occasionally. The longer you can simmer the sauce the better it will taste but 2-3 hours is minimum.
        1 hour before service puree the mixture in a food processor, immersion or carafe blender and return it to the pan and correct the seasoning. simmer for approx 1 hour (your choice)

        I like to add chopped mushrooms or peppers at this stage but that is optional.

        This recipe makes 2/3 of a gallon but this sauce freezes very well.

        If you are lucky enough to have fresh herbs, don't add them until after the mixture is processed. 1/2 the basil and parsley should be added just before serving.

        1. My grandmother has always said that you can't make tomato sauce without a piece of beef and a piece of pork. So any time I buy some spare ribs or a roast, I cut off a small piece before cooking and use it for my tomato sauce.

          Basically, I put a couple tablespoons olive oil in a big pot, throw the beef and pork piece in there and let it cook around a bit. Then I sautee a chopped onion until translucent, then throw in a couple cloves of minced garlic for about a minute, maybe less. Add two big cans of canned whole tomatoes that I've gone through, squished and taken out the skin and any hard pieces. Put in maybe a tsp of salt. Let it simmer for about an hour. Then add a handful of fresh basil that I tear up into smaller pieces and a pinch of oregano. Throw in some cracked black pepper and you're good to go.
          I usually end up freezing half for another time because it makes a whole lot of sauce!

          1. Thought a quick 5-minute version would be a nice addition to this post. Nothing ground-breaking, but sometimes a girl's only got 5 minutes!

            Heat saucepan, add olive oil. Then add minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until fragrant.
            Add a can (or however many) of crushed tomatoes (carefully!).
            Add seasonings: salt, pepper, Italian seasoning blend, pinch of sugar.
            Simmer as long as you'd like or as short as a few minutes.

            1 Reply
            1. re: laurendlewis

              For pizzas, I like this Alton Brown recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

              For pizza sauce, I put it in the food processor after it's done cooking.

              If I'm in the mood for pasta, I tend to lean towards a bolognese sauce... beef, pork, lamb, veal for the meat... rarely all of them, but at least two.

            2. I like to put anchovies and cook until they completely melt / blend into the sauce. Not a lot but just a few. It's just my thing and I like anchovies a lot!

              1. It's probabaly a cross cultural thing, but I am assuming you mean sauce for pasta.. like a sugo. (here in OZ, tomato sauce is what you buy in bottles and whack on your meat pies at the footy)

                Go to the market. Buy a crate of their dodgiest tomatoes. The ones they won't admit to. The ones that are almost turning. You can get all poncy and skin and seed and all that, but I just bung the lot into a saucepan with whatever aromatics I've got lying around.. sliced leeks, onions, lots of garlic, oregano, olives...

                My secret ingredients are balsamic reduction and anchovies. Whack in a good dollop of the balsamic (the vinegar alone will suffice if you don't have a good reduction lying arounf) and a tin of anchovies and simmer the living be-jeezuz out of it. I like to reduce it by at least a third. If the skins are to large, get a pair of scissors and rough cut them up a bit smaller. Season to taste

                Sterilise some jars, whack a bit of fresh torn basil or a few strips of lemon rind and pour in sauce.

                Will keep in a cool dark place for a few months.