Tomato sauce equals comfort food for me. Perhaps I am biased – my mom’s side of the family has some strong Italian roots, and I did study abroad in Italy for several months when I was in college. But chances are, if you’re reading this, tomato sauce is comfort food for you, too! In addition to sharing recipes for complete meals and menus on What Annie’s Eating, I want to share simple recipe staples and general cooking tips that are great to have in your back pocket. On the Recipe Staples section of my site, you’ll find everything from how to roast bell peppers, how to make croutons, to the basic elements of a classic basil pesto. A simple and delicious tomato sauce is absolutely a recipe staple in my book and today I’m going to teach you how to make one that is a crowd pleaser every time.
I am all for a Sunday sauce – you know, those delicious tomato sauces that you let simmer for hours and hours to reduce and develop flavor on a Sunday afternoon? I am also all for a tomato sauce that delivers the same amount of flavor, but instead comes together in 30 minutes, and that’s where this tomato sauce comes in. Sometimes you’re tired and it’s a weeknight – not an episode of Chef’s Table! In my recipe below, I layer flavor by practically caramelizing everything that goes into the sauce, and I also use two ingredients in particular that add a major punch of flavor – tomato paste and anchovies. This recipe is fantastic to have fresh or to keep in the fridge for everything from a healthy bowl of farro to an indulgent pasta dish topped with generous amounts of freshly grated parmesan cheese, and maybe a meatball or two. My personal favorite way to enjoy this sauce is on some cavatelli, simply topped with a pinch of red chili flakes.
Simple + Delicious Tomato Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3/4 Cups yellow onion medium dice (this is about 1/2 a large onion or 3/4 of a small onion)
- 4 Anchovies
- 3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 2 Garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 28 Ounces of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes crushed by hand or 28 Ounces crushed tomatoes
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly Cracked black pepper
- Optional: Crushed red chili flakes a tablespoon of butter
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onion and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions become soft.
- Add the anchovies to the pan and stir until they break down, about 30 seconds or so.
- Add the garlic and the tomato paste at the same time, and give everything a big stir to combine the mixture. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the whole mixture starts to caramelize. Season generously with salt.
- Add your canned tomatoes and their juices to the pan, stir everything around to deglaze the pan, and add another generous pinch or two of salt, and simmer at a low heat for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has slightly thickened.
- Season to taste with additional salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and a big pinch of crushed red chili flakes for spice if desired. Throw in a knob of butter at the end and toss to combine if desired.
As a note, I prefer to use whole peeled canned tomatoes and crush them by hand for most recipes, the texture is so perfect in a sauce! If you want to read up on how to choose your canned tomatoes, I’d highly recommend reading this excerpt from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s “The Food Lab”, and actually truly anything by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, for that matter!
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