Tomato sauce is one of the most popular sauces in Italian cooking. It is normally served with pasta but can be used in many different recipes.
What I describe here is the most basic and, so to speak, neutral tomato sauce. Other ingredients can be added depending on what the sauce is for, but these are the steps to obtain a very good base.
800g peeled tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (See: how to Chop an onion in Basics)
3 garlic cloves, finely chooped
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
A consideration on the tomatoes: you might use fresh tomatoes instead, but since not all tomatoes are suitable for a sauce and they need to be treated before cooking, we can stick to peeled tomatoes for now as they guarantee consistent results, as long as you buy good quality ones.
First, sweat your onion in two tablespoons of olive oil, on a very low flame, and after 4-5 minutes, add the garlic, being careful as it will burn very quickly if the oil is too hot. A minute or so should be enough for the garlic, and now it’s time to add the tomatoes.
When adding the tomatoes, what we want is to get rid of the seeds and the bits of skin still attached to them. Back in the days, a vegetable mill was used; although it is still a good tool to have, it is pretty time consuming to use and to wash, and people simply prefer using a hand blender.
The problem using a hand blender is that the seeds will stay intact; therefore, what I normally do, is to blend the tomatoes and them pass them through a sieve:
You can see below all the seeds that would otherwise have gone into your sauce:
As you can see, I’ve added some water at the end; all recipes that you will see call for a fairly long cooking time, from 30 to 90 minutes let’s say: if you don’t add some water to open up your sauce it will become too thick, will stick to the bottom of the pan and eventually burn.
The quantity of water can vary depending on how long you want to cook the sauce for, how thick you want it to be , but half of the weight of the tomatoes is a good starting point.
After adding the water, bring the sauce to the boil quickly and then turn down and simmer gently for at least 40 minutes or until the sauce reaches the desired thickness. I also suggest that you skim the surface every now and then as a foam will form:
Towards the end, add the salt and sugar
NOTE: the above quantities of salt and sugar are only a rough guideline, and I suggest that you add them little by little and taste the sauce; with a bit of practice you will know what the right quantity is. Also, some people don’t add sugar to their tomato sauce; I do it firstly because tomatoes have their own acidity and the sweetness of the sugar counterbalances it very well; furthermore, if I’m using peeled tomatoes this is even more important as citric acid is added to them as a preservative
Another important thing to take into account is that this sauce tastes better if you let it cool down before using it