There are a few recipes that everyone should just know how to make without an actual recipe. Some sort of chicken dish, macaroni and cheese, and your favorite cookies are some of the things that come to mind. And, of course, tomato sauce. I feel like a lot of people get scared away from making sauce because it seems so complicated, and the jarred stuff is so easy.
But simple, fresh tomato sauce is arguably one of the easiest things you can make (and trick people into thinking was hard). If you know how to chop things (even roughly), turn on a stove, and stir, then you can make sauce.
Bonus: it takes less than an hour to make from start to finish. This, plus the sweet, clean flavor that comes from fresh tomatoes means that you’ll have trouble touching the jarred stuff ever again. This is also a great dish to make if you are trying to be a real, sophisticated-seeming adult who does things like avoid over-processed foods.
I like to stir my slightly al dente pasta into the sauce, as I think it flavors the pasta better, but feel free to just ladle the finished sauce on top of pasta (or bread, or your face). Try to time the pasta and the sauce. If you’re using fresh pasta (and I think that you should), put the pasta in when you add the cheese to the sauce. If you’re using dried pasta and the timing is a bit harder, you can add a little unfinished sauce to your pasta to coat it until the sauce is finished.
Chunky Tomato Sauce (serves 3-4, depending on how much sauce you like)
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced medium-small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or so tomato paste (I just eyeball this, so you may need more or less)
6 large tomatoes, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
large pinch or two red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grated parmesean cheese (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or a handful of fresh basil leaves, cut into slivers
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or a teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves, chopped
Heat enough olive oil over medium heat to comfortably coat the bottom of a large pan with a lid. When oil is hot, add diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened, about 7 to 8 minutes. This is usually the perfect amount of time for me to chop my tomatoes, but will vary for you depending on how fast you can slice. When the smallest pieces of onions are just starting to turn oh-so-slightly brown, add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until paste is well distributed. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper and stir well to combine.
Place lid on pan and cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for about 15 minutes, turning heat down to medium-low once sauce starts to bubble. At this point, the tomatoes should have broken down considerably and your sauce should be quite liquid-y. Arrange lid so that there is a slight opening for steam to escape, but so pan is mostly covered, and cook for another 10 minutes. Sauce should be a bit thicker. Remove lid completely and cook, stirring often, until sauce has thickened considerably but is still has enough thinness to coat pasta. The time this takes will depend on the water content of your tomatoes–sometimes it will take 10 more minutes, other times closer to 20 (you my need to turn the heat up a bit). When it looks just about done, stir in cheese (if using) and herbs until well combined. Kiss your jarred sauce goodbye.