Updated: Nov 1
I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and say that I never just doctor up store-bought marinara sauce for pasta night at my house. I do. And there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with that. But sometimes - especially during peak tomato season - I love making my sauce from scratch. There's something romantic and satisfying about turning those ripe red globes (along with a couple of other ingredients) into a beautifully silky liquid that can become the base of so many delicious sauces. That said, I despise peeling tomatoes and think that something as simple as marinara sauce should be just that - simple. So although I've tried any number of recipes for homemade tomato sauce, I've returned time and again to the process outlined in a NY Times Cooking recipe (find the original here).
In the recipe that follows, I've used my Spanish Sunset Spice Blend to add a fun undertone to what is otherwise a super straightforward tomato sauce. I love the way the ingredients in my spice blend (like Spanish paprika, saffron, white wine vinegar, and orange) create complexity of flavor with basically zero extra effort. That said, you can also use my Five-Chile Harissa Spice Blend instead if you like a little heat to your tomato sauce or my Italian Countryside Spice Blend if you want a kick of umami. The possibilities go on and on, but tomato season doesn't, so let's not waste any more time!
Oh, one final note. This recipe can easily be scaled up if you want to make several jars of sauce to freeze/can for use later on, and a properly canned jar could make an excellent edible gift if one were so inclined. 😉
Spanish Sunset Tomato Sauce
Makes about 16 ounces (2 cups) of sauce
5 pounds large fresh ripe tomatoes (heirlooms aren't necessary, but choose the biggest, reddest, juiciest tomatoes you can find)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
4-6 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Spanish Sunset Spice Blend
1 pound dried short pasta of choice (if making pasta)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional but highly recommended)
Cut the tomatoes in half. Using a box grater set inside a large mixing bowl, grate the tomatoes so that all you have left is the tomato skins. Discard the tomato skins. Strain the tomato pulp through a fine mesh strainer, and discard the excess liquid. (Note: You can skip this straining step if you like. You'll just need to simmer your sauce a bit longer to cook out the excess liquid.)
Heat olive oil in a large, wide pot or tall-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the tomato pulp and stir to combine. Use the same box grater to grate the onion, and add the onion to the pot. Use the side of the box grater with the smallest holes to grate the garlic, and add that to the pot as well. Add the tomato paste and the Spanish Sunset Spice Blend, and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and then lower to a simmer and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato and onion have broken down, and the sauce has become concentrated in both color and flavor, about 15-20 minutes. You should have about 2 cups of sauce. If you're just making the sauce to freeze/jar/use later, allow it to cool completely before freezing/jarring/chilling.
If you're making pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil while the sauce is simmering away. Generously salt the water and cook pasta according to package instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, grate parmesan cheese (if using).
Using a slotted spoon or mesh strainer with a handle, scoop cooked pasta directly into the sauce pot, adding a splash of pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Add a handful of cheese and stir to coat.
Serve pasta along with additional cheese along side, if desired.
Just for funsies I put together a short little video showing all the steps above. Tell me what you think!