Before I was allowed to apply for admission to my culinary school, I had to pass a basic skills class. I’m sure it was designed to separate the serious from the lackadaisical; the ones truly interested in cooking vs. those who just wanted to be a TV celebrity chef.
One of the very first things we had to demonstrate we could make was a basic tomato sauce. And you know what? This “basic” sauce was better than any pre-made sauce I’d ever eaten out of a jar. Today, I’m sharing with you the notes I took down as my chef instructor taught us to make this sauce. Serve over traditional pasta or butternut squash noodles.
- Sweat, don’t brown, the onions – Cook them over medium or medium-low if you need to. You’re looking for the onions to soften and become translucent. You want them to release their flavor without browning.
- Cook the garlic ever so briefly – Seriously folks, 30 seconds. That’s it. And if you throw the garlic in, forget about it, and burn the living daylights out of it? Just start over. Nobody wants to eat sauce made with bitter, burned garlic.
- Use roughly chopped, whole peeled tomatoes – Reading this post in the summer, when there are great, fresh, in-season tomatoes? Cool. It’s February as I write this, and even the best chefs know that certain canned items deliver a superior quality vs. an out-of-season product. I used Red Gold Whole Peeled Tomatoes here. These whole Roma tomatoes have the optimum combination of perfect texture, sweetness, color, and consistency – all year ’round.
- Do NOT simmer this sauce all day – If you have a hearty meat sauce with lots of big flavors – sure, simmer that all afternoon. But this simple, light tomato sauce needs only 15 minutes to slightly reduce and concentrate its flavors.
- Add dried herbs at the beginning; add fresh herbs at the end – Dried herbs and spices (if using) will release their flavor as they cook, whereas you’ll kill the flavor of fresh herbs if you simmer them too long.
- Season with salt and pepper just before serving – If you add the salt up front, your sauce may be too salty once it reduces.
About those tomatoes. Red Gold invited me to do an at-home comparison of their tomatoes versus a competitor’s product. The photo above says it all. I simply opened the cans and dumped them into side-by-side trays, and the difference was immediately quite clear. In addition, Red Gold is now Non GMO Project Verified, and all of their tomatoes are packed in 100% recyclable Non-BPA/BPS lined cans. There’s a lot of love about Red Gold!
- 2 cans (28 ounces each) Red Gold Whole Peeled Tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
- Remove tomatoes from their juice; reserve juice. Roughly chop tomatoes.
- In medium saucepot, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until onion is just softened and translucent (do not brown), stirring frequently.
- Stir in garlic. Cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, then reduce to low. Simmer 15 minutes or until thickened to a sauce-like consistency.
- Stir in salt, pepper and basil.
Disclosure: As a Red Gold Ambassador, this was a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the brand. Sponsored posts help me pay for the costs associated with this blog (groceries…lots of groceries), and help support me as I pursue a career in recipe development and food photography. All opinions are 100% my own.