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Tomato sauce (Recipe: one-one-one spaghetti sauce) {gluten-free}

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.

Spaghetti sauce made with one of everything, on The Perfect Pantry.

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?

Tomato sauce

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.

Spaghetti sauce, as basic as it gets.

One-one-one spaghetti sauce

From the pantry, you'll need: onion, garlic, canned chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, Dijon mustard, bay leaf, dried oregano.

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.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
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

Need more creative ideas for using tomatoes all year round? Get 25 Tomatoes, my e-book packed with fantastic recipes, full-color photos and a fun video tutorial. With the FREE Kindle Reading app, delicious tomato recipes will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


What a great sauce to have on hand. I usually put up spaghetti sauce, but last year due to an over-full freezer I ended up canning a bunch of crushed tomatoes in lieu of my usual amount of spaghetti sauce, and I love how useful a quart of crushed tomatoes can be.
Dijon mustard--I like it and will have to try this.


Kirsten, when I was a little girl, my mother's choice of spaghetti sauce was Spatini, which came in little packets that you mixed with water. The taste was salty, of course, as most packaged foods are, and the Dijon mustard in my spaghetti sauce gives me a bit of that taste memory without overwhelming the sauce with salt.

"Drain off the excess oil. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano and water."

How much water do I add?

Really want to try this one.

Dave, good catch. 1 cup of water (I've fixed the recipe). Thanks!

Very fun! And there is no doubt this would be good.

Perfect weeknight meal!

I add a little bit of Ground Cloves to my sauce too. Adds a warm spicy touch.

I never thought to add Dijon mustard to my sauce. I'll have to try it.

Kalyn, it's funny how one of the very first things I ever learned to cook is still one of my favorites.

Candice, so true!

Pat, I'm intrigued by the idea of cloves, and you know I'll have to try it next time!

Donna, mustard is my secret ingredient. I guess the secret's out now.

I recently ran out of tomato sauce and scoured the pantry and cabinets for some substitute to no avail. Then I Googled for the diff in sauce and paste and there didn't seem to be much. So I used paste. But there is still a question in my mind of when to use sauce, when to use paste and when to use both.
Help please.

I've never thought of adding dijon mustard either. I usually add cayenne pepper or crushed chillis to give it a bit of warmth. Will definitely try mustard next time. Thanks for the tip.

Mack, the difference is in the concentration and amount of water. Tomato paste is the most concentrated, so if you are looking for pure flavor essence, use that. If you don't have any, you can slowly boil down canned tomatoes or tomato sauce until they are thick.

Connie, cayenne pepper is a great addition to sauces like this.

What a unique and delicious recipe for sauce my friend :D


I am intrigued by this as I make lots of sauces, and have always used the olive oil, and never thought to use mustard. I am taking vacation next week, but when I am back to cooking, I will try this for sure!

CCU, thanks. Hope you like it.

Winnie, I'm always looking for ways to cut a bit of fat from my cooking, and even lean ground beef will give off enough fat for this sauce. The mustard? That's my secret!

I made this last night.

My wife summed it up well, "This is the best pasta sauce I have ever had. We can serve this to company"
And to top it off I used plain wrap Walmart canned tomato products. YIKES!

Note: I added the salt & pepper but no sugar.
Also added 1 Tbsp. apple cyder vinegar and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg.

Thanks Lydya

Next time I will double the recipe and freeze half. Also will use the Pomi chopped tomatoes and add a bit of dry red wine in place of some of the water. Can't Wait! Not sure it can get much better but am going to try.

Dave, I'm delighted you enjoyed the recipe! Cider vinegar is a nice addition.

Great pantry recipe Lydia - I always have tomatoes in my pantry - this will be perfect for my college kids!

I LOVE any tomato sauce - mine are almost never the same twice as (naturally) I like to use what ever I have on hand and yes I have a crazy variety of canned tomato products. Of course I also usually have some sort of fresh tomato on hand as well to feed my well documented tomato-addiction! Definitely going to try adding a dash of Dijon to my next sauce!

Nice recipe and tomatoes are healthy but maybe we should think twice before eating canned tomatoes. What is your opinion on the article below?



1. The Endocrinologist Won't Eat: Canned Tomatoes
Fredrick Vom Saal, is an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A.

The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe's and Pomi.

Budget tip: If your recipe allows, substitute bottled pasta sauce for canned tomatoes. Look for pasta sauces with low sodium and few added ingredients, or you may have to adjust the recipe.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/12/01/7-foods-should-never-eat/#ixzz2U3ZTTti6

Smashing success. we made meatballs instead of meat in the sauce. Also added sausage. We made a big batch, so we are having more tomorrow, it was so good!

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