Tomato Sauce

Simplest possible tomato sauce (this will cook in about 30 minutes, after fifteen minutes of prep).Ingredients

  • 3 lbs tomatoes (any variety will do, but plumb tomatoes (sometimes called Roma) are best for their low water content and small seeds.
  • 2 large onions.
  • 4 to 6 cloves of garlic,
  • 1/8th cup or less olive oil
  • 1 tsp thyme (or oregano or basil or a combination of them)
  • 1 too 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp fish sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Peel and chop the onions into small pieces, about 1/3rd of an inch across.  Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Saute the garlic and onions in the olive oil in a cast iron frying pan for about ten minutes over a moderate heat.  The onions will turn almost transparent.  Meantime, cut the tomatoes into pieces about ½ to ¾ inches across.

When the onions and garlic are ready add the tomatoes, herbs, fish sauce and salt and pepper.  Simmer for thirty minutes.  You may have to add water during the cooking process. (You can do the cooking in a saucepan with a cover, but make sure it’s enamel or stainless steel and expect it take a bit longer).  At this point you can serve the sauce as is or puree it. It can also be used as the base for fantastic tomato soups.

For a richer sauce, cook the garlic and onions until they have almost become marmalade.  You may have to add small amounts of water to keep the onions and garlic from drying out.  Then add the tomatoes and cook long and slowly until the sauce is almost pureed by the cooking.  This gives a deep flavored sauces that is great for pizza.

For a more robust sauce or soup. If you don’t want to spend the time on long, slow cooking, I find it much easier to roast the tomatoes first, and then proceed as above.  Simply cut the tomatoes in half, put them face down in a shallow pan coated with olive oil, and cook in a 425 oven until the bottoms turn brown.

For a more elegant sauce or soup. Peel the tomatoes by dipping them one at a time briefly in boiling water (20 seconds or so), then plunge them under cold water.  The skins should slip right off. Cut them in quarters and remove the seeds.  Put the seeds in a strainer to preserve the juice.  Cook the garlic and onions a bit longer and add tomatoes and the tomato juice.

The tomatoes I get during the summer’s farmers markets are unsurpassed and make a delicious sauce.  They are ripe off the vine, meaty, with few seeds and little excess water, and they produce an intense tomato flavor.

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