Tomato Sauce Recipe

Written by CMP on October 29, 2008


My father called it Gravy.

I've always called it tomato sauce, and have fond memories of it simmering away every Sunday afternoon. The tomato sauce from my youth was always made with meat. Not that it was a "meat sauce," per se, but meat was first browned in the pot and then left to finish cooking in the pot. I like to use meatballs and sweet Italian sausage, but my mom will also throw in short ribs (beef or pork) and braciole on occasion. 

And so as the weather cools here in the northeast and my grill gets less and less use, you'll often find a pot of sauce bubbling on my stove on a sunday early evening. Feel free to call it Gravy if you like.


  • 3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 Meatballs, uncooked
  • 3 Sweet Italian Sausage, uncooked
  • 6 28oz. Cans of Whole, Peeled Plum Tomatoes
  • 1 Medium Onion, diced
  • 4-5 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
  • 20-25 Leaves of Fresh Basil
  • 3 Tbs Fresh Oregano
  • 1 Tbs Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Heat a large sauce pot over medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add the olive oil and whatever meat you've decided to use. Brown the meat well on all sides. This will take several minutes - BE PATIENT - you're developing flavor here so take your time.

While the meat is browning, place your basil and oregano leaves in a blender with one can of the tomatoes. Blend well (about 10 seconds) until the herb leaves are mixed completely into the tomatoes.

Once the meat is brown, add the onion, salt and pepper to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, 5-7 minutes. As the onion releases it's liquid, scrape the bottom of the pot to get the browned bits of meat up. Add the garlic and cook another minute longer.

Add the blended tomato-herb mixture to the pot and give it a stir. Turn the heat up to High.

Now, working quickly, pour each can of tomatoes into the blender and pulse just once or twice to break up the tomatoes - just a couple seconds for each can - then add to the pot. After all six cans are in, stay close by. Each time the pot starts to boil, give it a stir and reduce the heat a bit. Repeat 3-4 times until the pot is at a low simmer and the heat has gradually be reduced to LOW.

Continue to simmer over low heat, stirring every 15-20 minutes, for at least three hours. Each time you stir, scrape down any deep red bits forming on the sides of the pot. I typically make a large batch of meatballs when I make the sauce. Some it brown in the pot as above, and the rest I cook mostly in the oven, and then let simmer in the sauce for the last two hours.

Sauce is done after it's reduced by about 20%. 

This recipe makes quite a lot. It keeps in the fridge for 7-10 days, and can be frozen immediately for several weeks.

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