The Basics: Tomato Sauce

In honor of the second session of Breaking Bread (instagram: @breakingbread.acf) on pasta sauce, I’m going to take you through the basics. You really don’t need much; you just layer fresh- (or preferably canned) tomatoes with herbs, spices, olive oil…and alcohol. Let it simmer until an insanely good sauce comes together. This is just a template! You can switch out ingredients and completely change the look and taste–so warm up your food brain.

I tried to take lots of pictures throughout the process, so the post is going to be more spread out this week. I’ll still put the standard recipe down at the bottom though! Food prep is especially quick this time if you used canned tomatoes, but you’ll want to dice or mince everything here to speed up the cooking.


Instead of wine, you’re going to need some dry gin–but vodka works too. You’ll need the usual olive oil, onion and garlic. Get those going, deglaze with the first shot of gin, then add the canned tomatoes. You could use fresh tomatoes if you have more time (I’d suggest using cherry or grape tomatoes) but it’s going to add about thirty minutes to the cooking time. The main challenge is cooking out the sourness that you might encounter with fresh tomatoes– especially if they aren’t ripe. You could work around this by either roasting or charring the tomatoes ahead of time. Otherwise, the sourness will disappear after a long simmer.


Hit it with some more gin, season, and let it simmer for long enough to reduce by about a third. Stir in some dried rosemary, thyme, and basil–plus a dried chili or two. Add water, reduce it by a third and… add water again. Trust me on this one. By now, the flavor is getting concentrated but the water keeps it from burning. Just stir it a few times every five minutes, and you’ll be fine.

Taste as you go, and adjust the salt as needed. It’s good practice to taste after the excess water boils off– that way, you get a more accurate sample from the sauce that’s left over.


It’s not a perfect measure, but I watch the ring around the pot to gauge how much the sauce is reduced. It’s a little more reliable than staring into the boiling liquid. By then, it was done, so I turned the heat off and let it cool. That sauce is going to thicken, and be ready to use right away. Now, you know you have to toss your pasta in the sauce, right? Time to transfer to a larger pan.


So now you want an idea of how to use this? Got it. Since you spent all this time on the sauce, let’s say you only have about twenty minutes for a meal. Boil some pasta just long enough to cook it al dente, and let it cool. I had some cooked shrimp, onion, and some really good tomatoes that I barely wanted to cook. Add those into a pan with a little butter and capers–maybe some herbs too, and stir in the sauce.


The sauce was still hot, so I just added the pasta, shrimp, and stirred it until warm. Sometimes simple is the best. See…I’m versatile. You could also use this sauce for pizza, but I’ll let you work that one out.


Still here? Man…you really are one the day ones. Here’s the normal write-up for the sauce. See if you can come up with a new way to use it! Tag me @craving_mad if you want to share it with the world, and I’ll add it to the CM story on Instagram.

Let’s cook.

You’ll need:

3 Cups Canned or Charred Tomatoes, diced

1/2 Onion, diced

2 Tbs Garlic, minced

2 Tbs Fresh Oregano/Marjoram

1 Tbs Dried Rosemary

1 Tbs Dried Parsley

1 Tbs Dried Thyme

1 Tsp Dried Basil

1 Tsp Dried Chili Flakes

1 Tsp Capers

1/4 Cup Gin

3 Tbs Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

  1. Sauté the diced onions and garlic in olive oil and salt until the onions soften, then add capers, and half of the gin. Once it evaporates, add the roasted tomatoes and stir.
  2. Raise the heat to medium-high, and continue stirring until well mixed.
  3. Once the liquid reduces, add the herbs (dried and fresh), black pepper, and chili flakes. Top with water. Reduce by one-third, stirring every five minutes. Taste for seasoning.
  4. Add the rest of the gin, then add water, and reduce again. Stir to prevent burning.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 20 to thirty minutes. Stir every few minutes to prevent burning. Taste for seasoning.
  6. Let the sauce cool, then transfer to an airtight jar, and top with olive oil. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.





2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nourish says:

    Yum! Can’t wait to try making this with our garden tomatoes. Thanks for sharing.


    1. ForestO says:

      That sounds awesome! I don’t grow my own tomatoes, but I got some really good ones and added them nearly fresh in one of the dishes I made with this.

      Liked by 1 person

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