First published in February 2008, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and an important change to the recipe. I've been making a version of this sauce since my college days. Recently, I began adding one more "one" ingredient to make it even better, and eliminating one ingredient: the olive oil, which really isn't needed at all.
On the list of things without which my pantry feels incomplete, tomato sauce is somewhere in the middle.
I always have it, I always need it, I always use it. And yet, I'm not entirely sure what it is, and how it differs from the other canned, tubed, bottled, and boxed tomato products I always have, need, and use.
Right about now, you're probably adding up the number of tomato variations in your own pantry. Tomato paste? Chopped or diced tomatoes? Canned whole tomatoes? Maybe a jar or two of "emergency" prepared marinara sauce? Slow-roasted tomatoes in the freezer?
Why so many tomato products? Well, for one thing, tomatoes are one of the world's healthiest foods, containing many nutrients, including a megadose of Vitamin C, plus iron and potassium. Also they're rich in lycopene, well known for its antioxidant properties. In fact, scientists have discovered that our bodies absorb more lycopene from cooked or processed tomatoes than from raw ones.
Canned tomato sauce, a convenience product that takes the place of home-canned tomatoes, is nothing more than tomatoes, salt, and sometimes other spices and seasonings (pepper, basil, oregano, garlic), cooked down to a medium thickness and puréed to a smooth sauce. Be sure to read labels carefully, as almost all canned tomato packaging looks the same, and it's easy to mistake plain sauce for a seasoned one.
Cans will keep for a long time in your cupboard; be sure to discard if the expiration date has passed. If you're out of tomato sauce, you can substitute half a cup of tomato paste plus half a cup water for one cup of tomato sauce.
One-one-one spaghetti sauce
Makes enough sauce for 1-1/2 lbs of pasta, serving 6 people. Can be frozen.
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 26-oz box of Pomi chopped tomatoes (or your favorite canned tomatoes)
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste, or a 3.75-oz tube of concentrated tomato paste
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt, black pepper and sugar, to taste
In a small stockpot over medium-low heat, brown the beef. When the meat is thoroughly browned, add the onion and green pepper, and cook until the onion is translucent. Drain off the excess fat. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano and 1 cup water. Simmer, uncovered, for one hour or until the sauce is thick and rich. Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Serve over the pasta of your choice.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
My own meat sauce
Salt cod and potato cannelloni
Very famous jambalaya
Chicken stuffed with ricotta
Lentils and brown rice
Three-layer lasagna, from Cooking On the Side
Gluten-free pasta with homemade ragu sauce, from Gluten-free Goddess
Turkey pesto meatloaf with tomato sauce, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Pasta with tomato cream sauce, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Tomato-fennel pasta sauce, from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
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