There are so many kinds available these days that there are plenty to try. Many of them are naturally vegetarian and even vegan, too! But they’re often high in fat and have way too much sodium and sugar. Plus, many brands seem to use a type of dehydrated garlic powder that typically upsets my stomach. (Fresh cooked garlic doesn’t seem to have that effect on me.)
What if I told you that you could have pasta sauce made from scratch almost as fast as it takes you to boil water and cook the pasta? And you can enjoy it year round because it’s made from canned tomatoes. All it takes is a few basic ingredients from your pantry and refrigerator. It keeps for a while and freezes nicely.
If you have fresh herbs, even better. Use 1 tablespoon fresh for each teaspoon dried, chop and add them near the end of the cooking time. This is a zesty sauce, so if you prefer it tamer consider using half the amount of basil, oregano, thyme, and crushed red pepper, and maybe adding a ½ teaspoon of sugar to sweeten it slightly. A California bay leaf, if you have it, also makes an excellent addition.
Quick Weeknight Pasta Sauce
Makes about 4 cups
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 2 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz can tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped, optional
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp sea salt
black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.
Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally. The time this takes will vary, depending on the water content of your canned tomatoes. Cento, an excellent and reliable brand, is packed in a thick puree so it cooks down fast, about 20 to 30 minutes. Other brands may take longer. If you end up cooking it too thick, just add some water back to thin it to the desired consistency. If the vegetables are still too firm for your liking when the sauce has thickened, cover and continue cooking the sauce until they’re tender enough.
Serve over your favorite pasta along with plenty of garlic toast. Mangia!