It’s sauce night at the Ghattas house. A night where we can kick back, relax, have a glass of wine, snack on a little bread and hors d’oeuvres, and wait for the sauce to cook. And although it’s always a good night when we make sauce, it’s unfortunately become few and far between. Primarily because it’s slightly time consuming, and partly because it’s become so easy to resort to jarred sauces on busy weekday nights, especially when Rao’s is so good! I always try to double up on batches when I make it, so luckily there’s always some left over for another night or two!
There are lots of different ways to make sauce, but I stick to two basic methods: A tomato sauce made with sauteed onion, garlic, celery, carrots; and a then quick marinara made with garlic, salt, crushed red pepper, and basil. Both recipes are listed below. The choice is yours when preparing sauces, but in general you will want to stick with the quick marinara if you are tight on time. It’s finished in about 30 minutes. The tomato sauce cooks much longer, at minimum about 1 1/2 hours but I usually start it early and let it simmer for a few hours. (Please note: the recipe for the tomato sauce is listed as a double batch, whereas the recipe for the quick marinara is for a single batch)
If you choose to make your own sauce, the payoff is well worth the effort. Homemade sauce is much thicker and heartier than traditional jarred sauces, with a richer and more robust flavor. And the best part is that you can adjust the flavors to taste. Prefer a sauce that has a little more sweetness? Add more carrots (or a little white sugar..). Prefer a garlicky sauce? Throw a few more cloves in to cook. It’s completely up to you!
I always make my sauces using San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes. You should be able to find them in the canned tomato section of any grocery store. Grown in the San Marzano region of Italy, these tomatoes are picked and canned at the peak of freshness, giving them a distinct sun-ripened taste. Since I buy them as whole peeled tomatoes, they need to be either crushed by hand or lightly crushed in a blender before adding to the sauce (don’t over-blend, it will incorporate too much air into the tomatoes!). However, if tomatoes are in season, feel free to use any fresh tomato to make the sauce, but keep in mind that this will add quite a bit of front end prep work to the overall cook time.
And while you’re at it, take advantage of that homemade sauce and make some Italian egg sandwiches the next day for breakfast or brunch. A perfect way to take advantage of last night’s hard work Enjoy!
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 (32 ounces each) cans San Marzano peeled tomatoes, crushed
- 2 dried bay leaves
- In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add the celery, carrots, and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens and vegetables begin to break down, anywhere from 1 hour- 3 hours. If sauce reduces or thickens too much, constitute with a small amount of water.
- Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 35-ounce can San Marzano Tomatoes, lightly crushed
- Kosher salt
- Crushed red pepper, to taste
- 10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife, toss them into the oil, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
- Carefully slide the tomatoes and their liquid into the oil. Bring to a boil, and season lightly with salt and crushed red pepper, to taste. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and cook, breaking up the tomatoes with a whisk or spoon, until the sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the basil about 5 minutes before the sauce is finished. Taste the sauce, and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary
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