I married into an Italian family, and as such, several things are a given:
- Family gatherings will be loud
- There will always be a faint aroma of basil and garlic in the house
- Learning to make a good tomato pasta sauce is high on the to-do list for a new wife
When I married into the family, I became privy to Nonna’s (my husband’s grandmother) pasta sauce recipe that uses pre-canned tomato sauce and diced tomatoes (that she probably canned herself). One year I attempted to mimic the recipe using fresh tomatoes since we had an abundance from our garden and came up with my own pasta sauce recipe.
While “Nonna’s Recipe” is still the gold standard of pasta sauce in our family, I’m not sure I’m allowed to share the secret recipe so I’m sharing my very similar recipe from fresh tomatoes instead. I know that I can share one part of her secret, which is to throw a piece of a carrot into the sauce while it is cooking to absorb the acidity of the tomatoes and create a sweeter sauce.
This recipe is great for tomato season, and I often can any extras to use in the winter. I use this sauce in:
- Zucchini Lasagna
- Chicken Cacciatore (in place of the tomato sauce/paste/spices)
- Chicken Parmesan
- 5 pounds of fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded (to peel, cut a small "x" on the top and drop in to boiling water for 10 seconds and drop in to an ice bath. Skin will easily peel off)
- ¼ cup olive oil (or tallow)
- 3 medium onions, diced
- 8 cloves of fresh garlic (or more to taste), finely minced
- ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried)
- 1 sprig of fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
- 2 bay leaves (remove when done)
- 2 sprigs of parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 carrot (1/2 should be grated and added to sauce, the other half should be added at the end of cooking and then removed)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.
- Add diced onions, garlic and grated carrots.
- Saute for 6-8 minutes or until onions are translucent and tender.
- Add tomatoes, chopped basil leaves, oregano, thyme bay leaves, parsley and sea salt.
- Simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours or until cooked down and starting to darken.
- Add carrot piece for the last 30 minutes to absorb acidity.
- Remove sprigs of herbs and piece of carrot.
- Optional: Use an immersion blender to puree sauce until smooth (for a thicker sauce, skip this step.
- Use fresh or store in the fridge up to 1 week, or can it according to your canner's instructions for tomato products.
If you’re interested in other delicious, grain-free Italian recipes, check out my review of the Everyday Paleo Italian Cuisine Cookbook here.
Do you make your own pasta sauce or use the store-bought canned variety?