I’ve been doing a lot of simple posts lately, for a few reasons.
1. I just had a baby. Ok, three months ago, but still.
2. I also have a toddler. Enough said. Seriously, though, she’s wonderful. But she’s still a toddler.
3. I like to share my favorite basic methods/recipes here on the blog so I can refer back to them in future posts.
What I’m basically saying is, expect more simple posts. Along that theme, today I’m sharing my very favorite simple tomato sauce.
I’m no Italian grandmother, but I think this sauce would totally fly in an Italian restaurant, and I’m not talking about the Olive Garden (no offense to any OG fans). It works as a sauce for pasta, as a base for a creamy soup (coming soon!), and it makes an awesome dipping sauce for vegan calzones (coming NEXT WEEK!). It’s also oil-free, and only has 5 ingredients. I told you it was simple.
Does it matter what type of tomatoes you use for this sauce? YES. YES, it does. Ok, maybe it doesn’t, but I don’t know, because once I found Muir Glen Crushed Tomatoes, I never looked back. Muir Glen has no idea that I exist, and didn’t sponsor this post (not that I would turn that offer down!). Anyway…they are about $2-3 per 28oz. can, depending on where you shop, but THEY. ARE. WORTH. IT. Seriously. I’ll shut up about them now. Wait…one last thing. If you fall in love with them like I did, you can get a consistently good deal on them via Amazon using Subscribe & Save. Ok, now I’ll shut up about them.
While the tomatoes are the star of this show, they are made even shinier with the addition of salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic. And the fifth ingredient, you ask? Remember the starchy cooking water we set aside from making Cold Water Pasta? This is the magic that makes this tomato sauce simply perfect. Let’s discuss.
When I learned about the Cold Water Pasta Method from Alton Brown a few months ago, he casually mentioned setting aside a cup of the cooking water, reducing it by half, and adding it to his tomato sauces. “But that’s another show”, he said. Well, I didn’t want to wait that long, so I started experimenting. And oh, what a wonderful discovery I made. The pasta water makes the tomato sauce much less watery. I know that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it really is. Nobody likes that watery puddle at the bottom of their bowl of sauce-drenched pasta. Ok, maybe there is someone who does, but they’re weird.
Using this miracle pasta elixir, you can transform what would have been a drink for the drain into a saucy wonder. The process is really easy.
First, boil the reserved pasta water until it has reduced by half. On the left, we have 2 cups of pasta cooking water. On the right, we have 1 cup of pasta cooking water that has been reduced. This is math. Sorry about that.
Let’s talk for a minute about the garlic. You can chop the garlic however you want. However, I simply have to recommend to you one of my favorite kitchen tools of all time – the microplane. Here it is in all it’s glory, ready to finely shred garlic into pulp that almost melts into the sauce. And unlike a garlic press, it can be used for all kinds of other things, like ginger, and chocolate, and citrus zest. Thus ends this garlic digression.
Let’s make this sauce already. Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the reduced pasta cooking water, garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for a minute or so, until the smell of garlic wafts into the air, enters your nasal cavities and triggers the “feed me” reflex in your brain. That is a thing.
Finally, stir in the crushed tomatoes and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. It’s not very obvious that the starch has worked its magic until the sauce sits for a few minutes after it’s done cooking. And even then, it’s not a super thick sauce, but I like that about it.
Here’s a prep tip for you. When you make this sauce, quadruple the recipe. Here’s why. For nearly the same amount of time and effort, you can make 4 quarts of this sauce instead of one. That’s one quart for whatever you wanted sauce for in the first place, and 3 quarts to freeze for later. That’s 3 quarts of time saved. Because time is measured in quarts, don’t you know? That’s a bad watch joke.
Ok, so there you have it. A simple tomato sauce for whenever you need it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. If you make it, please tell me about it! I love hearing about your kitchen adventures. Leave a comment here, or tag #passtheplants on Instagram. It seriously makes my day. Don’t you want to make my day?
Simple Tomato Sauce
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta liquid from cooking Cold Water Pasta
- 32 ounce can Crushed Tomatoes (I can only recommend the Muir Glen brand)
- 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped (or grated using a microplane))
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- In a small saucepan, boil pasta cooking liquid until it has reduced by half.
- In a medium/large saucepan over medium-low heat, add the reduced pasta cooking liquid, garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook for one minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.
- Cook sauce for 30 minutes, then enjoy as desired.