There's nothing terribly special about this; it's just a typical tomato sauce flavored with onions, garlic, and spices. However, this is what we always cook up whenever we're in the mood for some tomato pasta sauce; we find it much tastier than the cheapo canned sauces we used to buy at the supermarket, and much more customizable than the expensive sauces (that we don't buy anyway, because they're too expensive). Since we just made a batch of this last week, it's this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.
~1 pound Italian sausage (optional, see notes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 large onions, chopped (2-3 cups, chopped)
6 cloves garlic, coarsely or finely chopped, or pressed with a garlic press
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 cup red wine
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
Salt, to taste
0. Sometime before step 5, prepare the tomatoes. If you want a chunky sauce, you can squish the tomatoes with your bare hands (caution: this may spray tomato juice), chop them with a knife, or process the tomatoes for a second in a food processor. If you want a smoother sauce, process the tomatoes until smooth in a food processor.
1. Remove the skin from the sausage and break into a few large pieces. Fry sausage over medium-high (or high) heat in a large, heavy-bottomed non-stick pot until it is browned and cooked through (~5-10 minutes, stirring frequently). Break the sausage into bite-sized pieces while cooking.
2. Add the chopped onions to the pot, and continue frying, stirring frequently, until the onions turn translucent and begin to brown, ~5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and cook another minute, stirring frequently.
4. Mix in the spices, cook for a few seconds, and then add the red wine to deglaze the pot. Cook until most of the wine has boiled off.
5. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste to the sauce, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer.
6. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, partially covered, for 20 minutes to 2 hours (depending on how long you can stand to wait). The longer the sauce simmers, the thicker it will be. Stir the sauce every 5-15 minutes (more frequently if you're worried about it burning, or are using a thin-bottomed pot) while it simmers to ensure the sauce doesn't burn on the bottom of the pot.
7. Test for salt level and adjust if necessary; we often don't add any salt (since we use salted tomatoes).
8. Serve over freshly cooked pasta with plenty of grated parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese. Do not rinse the pasta after cooking; unrinsed pasta holds sauce better than rinsed pasta.
Makes enough sauce for at least 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of dry pasta, cooked. We typically cook up a pound of dry pasta the day we make the sauce, then cook up more pasta a few days later to finish off the remainder of the sauce. Leftover sauce freezes well, and the recipe can easily be scaled up or down to suit your needs.
We almost never measure the amounts of the ingredients for this recipe. Just adding a sploosh of wine, a sprinkling of spices, and about the right amount of onions, garlic, and tomato paste should be fine. Feel free to customize the recipe to better suit your own tastes: if you love garlic, add more; if you want a thinner sauce, use a few extra cans of tomatoes or some water; if you want a meatier sauce, add more meat; if you want a spicier sauce, add more spices; if you want more vegetables, add some carrots or bell peppers. It's up to you!
This recipe does not need to be made with meat (we often make it meatless), though we find that meat does add a satisfying savory note to the sauce. Substituting just about any ground tetrapod (pork, turkey, beef, etc.) or 1/2 pound chopped bacon for the Italian sausage should work just fine.
We use canned whole tomatoes because Joy of Cooking reports that they're typically better than chopped or blended canned tomatoes. Using canned whole tomatoes also lets you choose how chunky you want the sauce.