With basic ingredients, and a relatively short cooking time, this is your go-to easy red sauce. [Photographs: Vicky Wasik]
There are times when you can stand over the stove all day, slowly cooking that red sauce down. Then there are times when you need to put dinner on the table in under an hour. For those moments when convenience trumps patience, this is the red sauce to turn to. Simmered with plenty of garlic, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and basil, this sauce can be whipped up in no time but still has that deep, rich, long-cooked flavor.
Why this recipe works:
- Tomato paste adds a concentrated, long-cooked flavor, making the finished sauce taste like it’s been on the stove for well over an hour.
- Dried oregano gives the sauce a classic Italian-American flavor, while basil maintains some fresh flavor in the sauce.
- Canned whole tomatoes tend to be higher quality than canned crushed or pureed tomatoes.
Note: If you prefer a more rustic, chunky texture, or if you don’t have an immersion blender, you can hand-crush the whole tomatoes with their juices before adding them to the pot, or use a potato masher to smash them in the pot; just keep in mind that will also leave chunks of crushed garlic in the sauce.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- Generous pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 large sprig basil
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
In a large pot, combine oil and garlic and heat over moderately low heat until garlic begins to very gently sizzle. Add red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until garlic just begins to turn a light golden color, about 3 minutes. Add oregano and continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until paste has softened and blended with the oil, about 3 minutes.
Stir in canned tomatoes and their juices, increase heat to medium-high, bring to a gentle simmer, then lower heat to maintain. Using an immersion blender, blend tomatoes until sauce is smooth. (Alternatively, blend tomatoes in a standard blender before adding to pot)
Add basil and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced slightly and tastes rich, about 30 minutes. Season with salt.
Discard basil. Stir in butter, if using, until melted. Use sauce right away, or allow to cool to room temperature, transfer to sealed containers and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
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