Indulge in a deceptively meaty, veggie-packed tomato sauce with a flavourful soffritto base, aromatic herbs, and a touch of red wine, perfect for your favourite pasta.

Servings

 

4

Ready In:

 

50 min

Calories:

 

165

Good For:

 

Dinner

About this Recipe

 By: Silvana Lanzetta

The best tomato sauce for me is a recipe called  “fake sauce” (sugo finto). This simple, humble, yet unique and flavorful recipe has always intrigued me. I mean, why is it called “fake”? What’s the secret behind this captivating name? Well, let me share a little story with you. When I was a kid, my aunt explained to me that the sauce is called “fake” because it gives the illusion of containing meat, but in reality, it’s made entirely of vegetables—nothing more!

 

Tomato sauce

Wines

So, when someone takes a bite, they’re fooled into thinking they’re enjoying a meaty sauce. But, surprise!It’s just a cleverly crafted veggie concoction that happens to be the best tomato sauce ever.

For a while, I assumed that this “sugo finto” was a less impressive version of the ultimate Italian sauce: the meat ragu, which is the king of all sauces. However, I soon realised that this delightful vegetarian creation has a culinary identity all its own, deserving respect and appreciation like any other recipe.

Even without meat, this harmonious blend of flavours and aromas brings together the best of vegetables and herbs, from carrots to the incredibly fragrant basil. And let’s not forget the visual appeal of this dish! Bursting with vibrant colours that range from orange to red, it’s like enjoying a sunny summer day, no matter the time of year.

 

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Sam Marzano Peeled Tomatoes -best tomato sauce

Nutrition

 

Enjoy this delicious tomato sauce as much as you want! This recipe is rich in fibers, lycopene, and calls for extra virgin olive oil, which is a source of healthy monounsaturated fats. It’s essential to use these fats in moderation to support heart health.

 

  • Proteins 8% 8%
  • Carbs 50% 50%
  • Fats 42% 42%
best tomato sauce

The Ingredients

Tomatoes

You know, to truly savour the best tomato sauce ever, it’s crucial to pick the perfect tomatoes. Trust me, San Marzano tomatoes are the way to go! These beauties boast an incredible flavour, super low acidity, and minimal seeds. Grown in the Campania region near Mount Vesuvius, they thrive thanks to the ultra-fertile volcanic soil and ionised sea air.

But fair warning, quality like this doesn’t come cheap! While San Marzano tomatoes might be a bit pricey, I promise they’re worth every penny. If they’re just not in your budget, no worries! You can still use your favourite canned tomatoes and reduce the acidity by adding a pinch of bicarbonate at the end of the cooking process. Your sauce will still taste amazing!

Olive oil

I just have to mention, there’s really only one oil you should use for this recipe—extra-virgin olive oil. Trust me on this one!

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Vegetables

What really sets this tomato sauce apart is the magical soffritto! It’s all about frying those three veggie superstars: carrots, onions, and celery. Now, while the classic soffritto calls for equal amounts of each, this recipe features a whole lot more onions. Why? Because we’re going for a sweet and aromatic flavour that’ll knock your socks off!

Oh, and don’t worry about a perfect chop here. Aim for coarse, irregular pieces to mimic the texture of a meat ragu. It’s all part of the charm!

Now, some folks like to add garlic to the mix. While not super common in Italian cuisine, it’s totally cool for this recipe (and a few others, too). As for the onions, I highly recommend using red ones. They pack a serious flavour punch, which is just what we want to make this sauce unforgettable!

Herbs

You know, one thing that really sets this recipe apart is the use of two fabulous herbs: parsley and basil. Here’s a little trick for you: try tying the parsley with cooking twine and tossing the whole bunch into the pot. This way, it’ll release all of its amazing flavour—especially from the stems. Just remember to take out the bundle after cooking.

Now, as for the basil, this fragrant herb needs a bit of special treatment. Since basil tends to lose its aroma pretty quickly, make sure you add it raw right at the end of the cooking process. Trust me, timing is everything here, so wait until the very last moment possible to sprinkle in that fresh, aromatic basil.

How to make the best tomato sauce

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Tuscan Vegetarian Ragu


  • Author: Silvana
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 portions 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • A can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 70 grams of carrots, chopped
  • 200 grams of onions, chopped
  • 70 grams of celery, chopped
  • 100 ml of red wine
  • a small bunch of parsley
  • 5 basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

 

  1. Begin by preparing the vegetables for your tomato sauce. First, thoroughly wash the vegetables. Next, peel the carrot, remove the onion’s outer layer, and eliminate any tough filaments from the celery.

  2. Proceed to coarsely chop the vegetables ensuring a chunkier texture for a more rustic appeal in the sauce.

  3. Secure the parsley into a bundle using a piece of cooking twine, ensuring it remains intact during the cooking process.
  4. In a saucepan, warm two to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over low heat. Incorporate the chopped vegetables and parsley and allow them to soften, creating a stew-like consistency. Maintain a low flame and stir frequently to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pan.

  5. Once the vegetables have fully wilted, pour in the red wine, raise the heat and let the wine evaporate.

  6. Incorporate the tomatoes. Opt for high-quality San Marzano peeled tomatoes, which should be crushed with a fork beforehand.

  7. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to your preference. If desired, substitute chilli pepper for traditional pepper.

  8. Allow the sauce to simmer over low to medium heat for approximately half an hour, or until the tomatoes have reduced and thoroughly blended with the other ingredients.

  9. Remove the sauce from heat and remove the parsley. Then mix in freshly chopped basil leaves. Combine the sauce with your choice of cooked pasta, along with a tablespoon of pasta cooking water.

  10. Finish the dish with a generous sprinkle of top-quality Parmigiano Reggiano, and enjoy your rustic pasta creation.

Notes

In certain variations of this recipe, pork rind is incorporated to enhance the sauce’s flavour. If you choose to include this ingredient, ensure the rind is thoroughly cleaned of any hair (your butcher can assist with this). Add the rind to the pan prior to the vegetables and allow it to fry slightly before proceeding with the recipe as directed.

Additionally, some renditions incorporate garlic. To include this option, finely chop 3-4 cloves and incorporate them into the soffritto stage of the preparation.

The ideal pasta shapes to pair with this tomato sauce include rigatoni, penne, fusilli, and conchiglie.

For an elevated flavour experience with this sauce, blend a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese into the pasta and cooking water. Toss well to ensure even distribution, resulting in a beautifully coated, scrumptious pasta dish.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: slow cooking
  • Cuisine: Italian
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FAQs

What is the secret to good tomato sauce?

Achieving a delicious tomato sauce hinges on simplicity, where each ingredient complements and enhances the others. Here’s a guide to mastering this culinary art:

1. Quality Tomatoes: Begin with ripe, flavourful tomatoes, with the San Marzano variety being the top choice for optimal taste.

2. Fresh Ingredients: Opt for either garlic or onion, or even a soffritto (a mix of finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots), along with just one herb such as basil, oregano, or parsley. Keep it simple. The freshness and quality of these ingredients are paramount for elevating the sauce’s flavour.

3. Slow Cooking: Simmer the sauce gently over low heat to allow the flavours to meld together beautifully.

4. Seasoning: Season the sauce with salt and pepper (or flaked chilli pepper), adjusting as you go to achieve the perfect balance of flavours.

5. Balancing Flavours: If necessary, counteract the acidity of the tomatoes with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda instead of sugar for a more natural adjustment.

6. Texture: Decide between a smooth or chunky sauce based on personal preference or recipe requirements, adjusting the tomato preparation accordingly.

7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Use high-quality extra virgin olive oil for sautéing the chosen ingredient (garlic, onion, or soffritto). Ensure not to fry them; aim for a slight caramelisation to add depth and richness to the sauce.

8. Patience: Allow the sauce to gradually reduce and thicken until it reaches the desired consistency, intensifying its flavour along the way.

By adhering to these principles of simplicity and balance, you’ll craft a tomato sauce that’s truly irresistible.

What tomato makes the best pasta sauce?

The tomato variety often considered best for making pasta sauce is the San Marzano tomato. Renowned for its rich flavour, low acidity, and meaty texture, San Marzano tomatoes are widely favoured by chefs and home cooks alike for their exceptional taste and superior sauce-making qualities. Their natural sweetness and robust flavour profile make them ideal for creating delicious and authentic pasta sauces. It’s important to note that many companies now use “San Marzano” as a brand for their canned tomatoes. However, the tomatoes used might not be genuine San Marzano. Therefore, it’s crucial to check that they are certified DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or Protected Designation of Origin [PDO] in English) to ensure their authenticity and quality. Despite this caveat, when sourced correctly, San Marzano tomatoes remain a top choice for pasta sauce due to their outstanding flavour and texture.

Do I have to peel tomatoes for sauce?

When using large tomatoes, such as San Marzano, peeling is necessary as the skin can be tough and unpleasant to eat. In this case, removing the peel improves the texture and overall enjoyment of the sauce. However, for small tomatoes like cherry tomatoes or baby plum tomatoes, peeling is unnecessary as their skins are typically softer and less noticeable in the sauce. 

If you choose to peel tomatoes for your sauce, here’s a simple method:

  1. Score a small “X” on the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife.
  2. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until you see the skin start to peel back from the X.
  3. Quickly transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water to cool.
  4. Once cooled, you should be able to easily peel off the skins starting from the X.

Do I need to blanch tomatoes before making sauce?

Blanching tomatoes before making sauce is not always necessary, but it can be beneficial in certain cases. Blanching helps to loosen the skins, making them easier to peel, which can improve the texture of the sauce, especially if you prefer a smoother consistency. However, if you don’t mind the texture of tomato skins in your sauce or if you’re using smaller tomatoes like cherry or baby plum tomatoes which have softer skins, you may choose to skip the blanching step altogether. Ultimately, whether or not to blanch tomatoes before making sauce depends on your personal preference and the desired outcome of your sauce.

Do you leave seeds in tomatoes when making sauce?

In Italy, tomatoes with fewer seeds and more flesh, such as San Marzano or Roma tomatoes, are commonly used for making sauce. In Italian culinary tradition, a sauce with too many seeds is generally frowned upon. However, exceptions are made for sauces made with fresh baby plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, where the seeds are less noticeable and add to the sauce’s character. 

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

“Ciao, I’m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, I’ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. I’ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and let’s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!”

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