How to Make Homemade Pasta Sauce: You Asked for It!
We asked our Recipe.com Facebook fans to tell us which recipes they wanted learn how to make, and homemade pasta sauce was high on the list. No doubt if you’re like I was, you’ve heard gushing tales of how great homemade pasta sauce can be, often accompanied by undisguised contempt for store-bought tomato sauces. I remember back in college, one of my coworkers at a part-time job I had came from a large Italian family, and when I offhandedly mentioned that my dinner plans one night included tossing some spaghetti in a pot and cracking open a jar of sauce, she gave me a look that somehow conveyed both wincing disgust and a kind of broken-hearted pity.
“What’s wrong with jarred sauce?” I asked.
All she could do was shake her head. In truth, for the simple sake of convenience, I’ve never given up on store-bought pasta sauce entirely, but years later, when I had the chance to make my own tomato sauce from scratch (from tomatoes I grew myself, no less!), I finally understood what all the fuss was about. We’re talking about the difference between filet mignon and a Quarter Pounder, or more to the point, the difference between vine-ripened homegrown tomatoes and the fat, flavorless ones you often find on sale at the grocery store.
Equally surprising was how relatively simple a flavorful homemade pasta sauce can be. True, parboiling the tomatoes then skinning, seeding and straining them can be messy (don’t wear a white shirt!), but the fresher the tomatoes, the fewer other ingredients you need to make your sauce sing. After all, fresh tomato sauce is all about celebrating the flavors of fresh tomatoes. Come winter, when tomato season is but a glimmer of warm hope on a dark evening, you can more than make due with a homemade sauce made from good-quality canned whole tomatoes. Or, if you’ve been smart and planned ahead, you can delve into your store of frozen sauce that you made when tomatoes were at their peak and enjoy a little taste of summer.
This step-by-step video on how to make homemade pasta sauce is an excellent place to begin. We’ve also compiled some tips and tricks based on our experience.
• Pick the right tomato. Whether you’re making sauce from fresh tomatoes or canned, it’s a good idea to use those plum-shaped varieties that have less juice in them, such as Romas or San Marzanos. That way you won’t have to cook the sauce too long to reduce it, which can deaden the flavors. If you’re using canned tomatoes, read the label when you buy them to see if flavoring (like garlic or basil) has already been added, which will impact the taste of your sauce.
• Parboil fresh tomatoes for as little time as possible, and transfer them immediately to an ice bath. By boiling the tomatoes for 30 second to a couple minutes, you’re just looking to loosen the skins so they’re easy to peel off.
• Don’t let your garlic simmer too long. Over-cooked garlic can impart a bitter taste to your final sauce; when you see just a bit of color, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
• Taste for flavor. If your sauce tastes too tart (acidic), then toss in a pinch or two of sugar — no more. If you want a more robust tomato flavor, add a tablespoon of tomato paste.
• To puree or not to puree. Some people like a hearty, chunky sauce; others like it smooth. Start by pureeing a cup or so of sauce, stir it back into the pot, then repeat until the sauce is the consistency you desire. You can always make a chunky sauce smoother, but you can’t make a smooth sauce chunky again.
• Freezing fresh tomato sauce. Cookbook author Deborah Madison has a handy tip for freezing your fresh tomato sauce: she ladles 1- or 2-cup portions of sauce into freezer bags, then lays the bags flat on the bottom of her freezer. That way they freeze into thin, compact packages that can be stored upright.
Get your apron on! It’s time to make homemade pasta sauce: