A great tomato sauce recipe should be a staple in even the casual cook’s repertoire. It can be used as a base for a ton of different dishes. I sometimes add carrots, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli to to make a pasta primavera. You can also just add pasta and keep it simple. If you want to get fancy, you can go for stuffed peppers. Now, though, I will recommend baked ziti. It is delicious and reheats wonderfully for lunch leftovers.
In this edition of Plates by Eight, I’ll explore two different versions of the same tomato sauce recipe. My first version requires about 8 hours from prep to plate. You will make a big mess and will use more dishes and appliances than can fit in your sink at one time. But, you will have fun and impress whoever watches you cook up a storm, and of course impress those you feed.
My second version is fast and (not) dirty. From prep to plate it requires about 1 hour and 15 minutes. You will use less than half the dishes and appliances and you will still be able to boast making your own tomato sauce. In fact, you will be able to boast serving your homemade tomato sauce on a time constrained weeknight. The sauce, of course, will not be quite as great as the first recipe, however, it is still tasty and your family or guests will leave the table more than satisfied.
2 cans of peeled plum tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
2 cloves fresh garlic
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 medium white onion
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1/8 cup of red wine
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook the sausage on a baking sheet or cast-iron skillet. Sausage is supposed to reach about 160 degrees. Watch the sausage and remove from the oven when it is closer to 100 degrees—it will finish cooking in the sauce.
Mix the plum tomatoes and tomato paste in a blender. Blend on high until there are no chunks (unless you prefer chunky sauce). Pour the blended tomatoes into the slow cooker. Fill a plum tomato can half full with water and add to the slow cooker.
Sauté the olive oil and onion in a frying pan over medium heat until the onion starts to brown. Quickly add the garlic and continue to sauté until the garlic also browns. Be careful not to let the onion burn.
Add the onion, garlic and olive oil to the slow cooker. Add the salt, pepper and sugar. Cover the entire surface of the sauce with basil. Do not be afraid to over season! Add the oregano, approximately half the amount of the basil. Stir in red wine, mixing all the spices thoroughly. Add the sausage to the sauce. I cut mine in half first to release the juices.
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of jarred pre-minced garlic.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Salt
1 teaspoon of Pepper
1 teaspoon of Sugar
Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to a large microwave-safe bowl. Fill the can of crushed tomatoes half full of water and add to the bowl.
Mix the garlic and olive oil in a small microwave safe bowl. Place in the microwave for approximately 20 seconds. Watch it while it cooks to make sure it does not burn. You want the garlic to brown.
Add the garlic and olive oil to the tomatoes. Mix in the salt, pepper, and sugar. Note that you are adding a bit more sugar for this version of the recipe to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, since it will not be cooking for nearly as long.
Thoroughly cover the surface of the tomatoes with basil. Add half as much oregano as basil and stir with a whisk. Cover the bowl with a microwave safe lid (a dinner plate also works in a pinch)
Place in the microwave and cook on medium for 30 minutes.Stir well and cook for another 30 minutes.
Baked Ziti Ingredients
1 lb of Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 a cup of Ricotta Cheese
1 lb of ziti-shaped pasta
Your awesome homemade tomato sauce
Add a dash of salt to water in a large pot. Cover and heat on high until boiling. Add the ziti and cook according to the instructions. I try to undercook mine slightly so that it doesn’t get too soft when I bake it later.
Drain the ziti and return it to the pot. Add about 3/4 of the bowl of sauce, about half of the mozzarella and all of the ricotta. Mix thoroughly.
Spoon the ziti into an oven-safe dish. A casserole dish will do, but I use my 12-inch cast iron skillet. Add remaining sauce to the top of the ziti. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top. (Tip: leave some extra sauce that you can add later when reheating the ziti to keep it moist.)
Bake at 350 degrees until the mozzarella cheese is melted. Broil the ziti very quickly if you want to crisp the top layer of ziti. Be careful not to burn all of your hard work!
Francis Tucker is a practicing attorney in New York City. He enjoys traveling, experimenting in the kitchen and a good Scotch.