tomato basil sauce

Tomato Sauce

There is nothing that I love more than a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce. Tomato sauce is inexpensive, versatile, and so easy to make. You can literally let it stew for hours unattended while you do your thing. I am known amongst my friends and family as the tomato sauce queen. Here are some of my tips and also some of my favorite recipes. 🍅 

Thick Tomato Sauce 

The only way to make thick tomato sauce is to use canned tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes create a thinner sauce. Trust me. Don’t believe the haters who say that a complex sauce can’t be created in a half hour. They are liars! Thick tomato sauce is great for anything from ravioli to shells. It’s also better for weird pasta shapes (like wheels) than thin pasta, because it coats better. 

1. Pricing. There are different qualities of canned tomatoes, different brands costing anywhere from 89 cents to $6.00. You can taste a slight difference with the tomatoes themselves, but not enough to warrant dropping lots of money. I recommend just going to your local Dollar Store and buying bulk cans of whatever is cheapest. One 12 oz can of tomatoes makes two meals for me.

2. Canned variety. Sometimes I like to buy “fire roasted tomatoes” or “herbed tomatoes” to mix it up. Even with the stronger varieties, any initial taste they have will be mostly covered up by whatever you put in the sauce. Remember: fresh herbs are always better than dried ones! 

3. Building your sauce. If you’re going to put anything that needs cooking in your sauce (NOT meat, but any garlic, onions, mushrooms, carrots) cook these in a sauce pan first. Use oil, not butter. Add any dried herbs or spices you want to this initial mix. 

4. Get going. Add your tomato sauce to the pan and get it bubbling. Now is the time to add anything that doesn’t need cooking (olives, capers, anchovies, pickled anything). I like to use brines in my sauces, so I add them at this point. For example, if I’m making a puttanesca sauce, I’ll add my black olives and pour the black olive juice right into my pan. 

5. Taste it. Take a spoonful and taste it. If you don’t like it’s taste, add some more spices. If it’s too acidic, add tomato paste. At this point you can either turn it on low and let it cook for an hour, which creates a very rich and thick sauce. Or, you can cook some meat or veggies and add your fresh herbs. Always ad your fresh herbs in right before you’re about to eat! Otherwise they’ll wilt and you won’t taste their flavor. 

Some easy thick sauces:

  • Puttanesca: From Series of Unfortunate events (and also Italy). Cook garlic and onions first. Don’t let them brown too much, just get them not raw. Add your canned tomatoes, let the sauce sizzle while adding salt and pepper (don’t go crazy on the salt). Add anchovies, black olives, capers, and other pickled things (pickled mushrooms, jalapeños, pearl onions, etc). Pour your black olive juice right into the sauce pan. Let it cook until the sauce has absorbed the olive juice. Top with cheese.
  • Marinara: Brown some garlic and onions in olive oil. Add tomato paste to the pan after the onions and garlic have turned golden, and swirl it around so that it gets toasted. Add your canned tomatoes and any dried herbs you may be using (thyme, parsley, oregano… but be gentle with your oregano pouring). Let reduce if you added the dried herbs, otherwise add fresh herbs and serve immediately. Put this on your pizza or in your lasagna. 
  • Bolognese: Cook your meat first with oil, seasoning with cumin, garlic powder, pepper and salt. Or whatever spice blend you enjoy. Remove the cooked meat, and use the juices as the base for your tomato sauce. Pour your canned tomatoes and mix the sauces. Add chopped carrots or your other favorite vegetables. Cook until the veggies are fork tender, and add your meat back in. Hearty and warming! 

Thin Tomato Sauce 

This type of sauce always reminds me of summertime at my parent’s house when my mom would make her basil tomato sauce (see bellow). A thin sauce doesn’t have to be lighter than a thick sauce, but it definitely interacts with pasta differently and really needs a long pasta or a penne pasta to properly pick it up.

1. Fresh tomatoes. You don’t need to spend your lifesavings on beautiful heirloom tomatoes (in fact I’d urge you to just eat any heirloom tomato you happen upon raw). Any old tomato will do, even ones that are starting to sag and move towards the end of their lives. One fresh tomato makes two meals for me.

2. Cutting tomatoes. Cut the bottom of the tomato off and slice your tomato that way, cutting into the core. This way, no part of your tomato goes unused. For quick cooking, chop the tomato up small. If you have more time, leave large chunks to caramelize. You get a bit more flavor this way, but we don’t all have the luxury of time, so don’t stress about it.

3. Sauce base. With this type of tomato sauce, your base is 90% oil. The tomatoes themselves aren’t heavy enough to carry themselves, so do not skimp on the oil. I recommend cooking garlic and onions and browning them before adding your tomatoes. Allow them to dissolve into the sauce while you do your dishes or whatever. 

4. Acidity. Fresh tomatoes can make for a really acidic sauce. Make sure to cook some veggies or meat to help balance out the flavor. Cook these in a separate pan while your tomatoes are reducing. Remove them, and pour their juices into the sauce. I recommend bacon. 

5. Too much reducing/gloppy sauce. You may have to add water if your sauce becomes too reduced. Don’t worry if you add too much water, just let the sauce reduce to a comfortable consistency. Add your fresh herbs minutes before it’s done. I would skip the spices or dried herbs, their taste is too powerful for this sort of sauce. 

Some easy thin sauce combos: 

  • Hello onion: Caramelize half an onion. Chop it up into thin slices so that it will cook faster. Cook bacon and pour the drippings over the cooking onion. Add your fresh tomatoes and add water to help everything reduce. Be careful adding salt, the pasta will have salt from the bacon juices already. Add the crumbled bacon after you’ve turned the sauce off. 
  • Mom’s basil sauce: Using olive oil and chopped garlic, cook tomatoes with salt and pepper. Add basil when the tomatoes have reduced. 
  • Veggie blast: Brown onions and garlic (or not). After they’ve browned, add your favorite veggies to the sauce. I have a soft spot for squashes so I like to use eggplant and whatever squash we have in our fridge. I encourage you to get creative and to try different things. Add your tomatoes shortly after adding your veggies, because you don’t want the veggies to overcook and becoming mushy. Add spinach or kale after the sauce has reduced, and season heavily with salt and pepper. Seriously, veggies need salt.
10

Homemade Cheese Ravioli with Meat Sauce 

This was absolutely perfect in every single way. It’s rich with flavor, slightly spicy, and a great dinner for a winter weeknight. 

I will post a detailed ravioli recipe in another post – the focus of this recipe is the meat sauce. 

Ingredients 

1 small yellow onion, diced 

5 large cloves garlic, minced 

1 lb Italian chicken sausage (hot or sweet) 

1 full jar tomato passata 

2 cups spinach, roughly chopped 

1 tsp granulated garlic 

1 tsp granulated onion

1 tsp dried basil 

1 tsp dried oregano 

½ - 1 tbsp granulated sugar 

Pinch red pepper flakes 

Extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste 

1 lb cooked cheese ravioli 

Directions 

Heat a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. 

Once the pot has come to temperature, drizzle a few tbsp of olive oil into the bottom and add in the onions and garlic. 

Sweat the onions and garlic until the onions become translucent. Season with salt and pepper.

Once the onions are translucent, raise the temperature to medium high and add in the chicken sausage.

Break apart the sausage using a wooden spoon, season with granulated onion and garlic and cook until browned.

As the chicken begins to brown, add in the entire jar of tomato passata [making sure to add water to the jar to add the excess], dried basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, sugar and stir. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken. 

During the final minutes of simmering, cook the ravioli, drain and reserve a small amount of pasta water. 

Raise the heat to medium once again, and add in the spinach and stir. 

Add in the ravioli and toss into the sauce. 

Garnish with fresh parsley or basil and serve. 

Enjoy! 

VEGAN MEAL IDEAS: LUNCH DINNERS & SNACKS

In the morning, I make myself a tofu scramble or peanut tofu.

Then, here are some (vegan) meal ideas for lunch, dinner & snacks

LUNCHES
I always add one of the following proteins (all are vegan) to my buddha bowls:
- Tofu
- Seitan
- Beans
- Lentils
- Chickpeas
- Falafel 
- Tempeh
- TVP

Buddah bowl 1:

Rice, TVP, squash, roasted potatoes, zucchini, roasted red peppers,  white onion (sauce: tahini + soy sauce + hot sauce +  agave)

Buddah bowl 2:

Quinoa, lentils, sweet potato, red peppers, asparagus, garlic  (sauce: peanut butter, vinegar, agave, soy sauce, water)

Buddah bowl 3:

Barley, olives, red onion, corn, eggplant (sauce: hot sauce, almond  milk, tahini)

Buddah bowl 4: 

Rice noodles, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, spinach, onion  (sauce: soy, hot sauce, water, tahini)

Pasta salad:

Corn pasta (cool), avocado cubes, red onion, shredded lettuce,  sundried tomatoes, red pepper (sauce: lemon juice, olive oil,  vinegar, agave, chili paste)

Mexican Quinoa:

Quinoa, olive oil, garlic, jalapeño, veggie broth, black beans, tomatoes, corn, chili flakes, cumin, lime, avocado

Falafel dippers:

Chickpeas, onion, garlic, cumin, parsley, basil, chickpea flour, olive oil (sauce: tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, agave, garlic, salt) 

DINNERS

Coconut potato curry:

potatoes, cashews, cherry tomatoes, tomato paste, cayenne pepper, cumin, garam masala, coconut milk, olive oil, basil

Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Pasta:

corn spaghetti, almond milk, shallots, red pepper, garlic,  olive oil, nutritional year, corn starch, pepper flakes

Potato “fries”:

Yellow potatoes, chill flakes, batter, lettuce (dipping sauce: chili  paste, mashed tomato, water)

Mushroom Polenta:

garlic, polenta, vegan butter, vegetable stock, rosemary,  mushrooms)

Vegan Pizza:

dough: gluten free blend, salt, baking powder, sugar  (coconut), yeast, olive oil  toppings: olives, pelati tomato  sauce, basil, red onion, mushrooms, spinach, zucchini 

Rapini Pasta:

Corn pasta, rapini, broccolini, olive oil, lemon juice, chill flakes

Thai curry noodles

Rice noodles, onion, cherry tomatoes, coconut oil, spinach (sauce:  coconut milk, tomatoes, tofu, soy sauce, ginger, red curry paste, sriracha, garlic, salt, lime juice) 

Spicy peanut butter tofu:

Firm tofu, peanut butter, sriracha, garlic, vegetable stock, green onions, rice vinegar, agave, soy sauce

Veggie burger:
Veggie patty, whole wheat bread, lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, avocado, olives (sauce: mustard or ketchup or vegan mayo or hot sauce)

SNACKS/ SIDES

Pistachio-stuffed dates:

pistacchios, salt, dates, shredded coconut 

Greek salad:

black olives, cucumber, tomato, chickpeas, red onion, bell pepper  (sauce: red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano)

Rice rolls:

Rice paper, lettuce, onion, mushrooms, peppers (dipping sauce:  tahini, hot sauce, water, chili paste, soy sauce)  

Date balls:

Dates, shredded coconut, raw oats

Apple slices with sauce:

Green apple slices, cinnamon (sauce: soaked dates)

Sweet potato chips

Sweet potatoes, salt, vinegar 

Baba Ghanoush

lentils (beluga), eggplants, pomegranate, parsley, tahini, lemon  juice, salt)

Most recipes can be found on my pinterest /deelsian, or I’ve made them myself! 

I will be updating this list frequently, adding things (probably will add a dessert category).

Things I buy that are pre-made for when I’m lazy! (it happens!)
- Vegan pizza
- Burritos 
- Veggie sushi
- Quinoa salads
- Veggie burgers
- Veggie nuggets
- Vegan hot dogs
- Oreos
- Sorbet frozen yogurt
- Pre-seasoned tofu (terriyaki) 

Italian food forever holds the key to my heart😌🌿🍝 and my all-time favourite has to be HOMEMADE POTATO GNOCCHI👌🏼👌🏼 perfectly soft pillows of potato goodness with a roasted tomato, garlic + basil sauce, makes for the perfect cosy dinner to end a long busy week🌟 they’re actually surprisingly easy to make too!
The recipe is from my Ebook ~ link is in my bio❤️ what are you having for dinner on this Friday night?

IG: @naturally_nina_

Next Generation Amortentia:
  • Rose: Old books, freshly made pumpkin juice, grandma's blueberry bread and coconut (Scorpius's shampoo).
  • Hugo: Soft sea-salt pretzels, hot chocolate, dry basil leaves and hazel wood.
  • James Sirius: Butterbeer, toasted sunflower seeds, cinnamon and chestnut wood.
  • Albus Severus: Strawberry jam, firewhisky, cinnamon cookies and clean sheets.
  • Lily Luna: Black tea leaves, cherry flower, rosemary water and blueberry.
  • Victoire: Orange and poppy seed juice (Teddy's favourite), lavender flower, incense and wet grass.
  • Teddy: Fresh ink, lavender flower (Victoire's hair), chai tea blend and rain.
  • Dominique: Almond wood, fresh ginger, bacon caramel and periwinkle flower.
  • Louis: Homemade chocolate-chip cookies, lemon-peel tea, Shell Cottage's wild blackberries and coffee.
  • Fred II: Basil tomato sauce, watermelon, honey-roasted almonds and menthol cigarettes.
  • Roxanne: Coffee grounds, apple and cinnamon soap, warm milk and chocolate.
  • Molly II: Lemon pie filling, olive oil, juniper wood and Diagon Alley's fish and chips.
  • Lucy: Freshly painted walls, chamomile flower, coconut oil and honey-lemon water.
  • Alice II: Wild flower garden, moist clay, lemongrass and pink pepper grounds.
  • Scorpius: Red Roses, roll-up cigarettes, elder wine and apple pie.
  • Lorcan: Cypress wood, blue champagne, jasmine tea and peppermint candy.
  • Lysander: Poppy flower, pumpkin-spice pound cake, caramelized apricot and muggle beer.
2

the meals that i had at modern love in brooklyn a few days ago :) gnocchi with a creamy tomato basil garlic sauce, almond ricotta and some greens and a warm brownie topped with cookie dough icecream, caramel sauce and whipped cream. i definitely can recommend going there- such a special and warm atmosphere. especially great for date nights!

6

Mother’s Day Dinner~~~

This was a super challenging menu but we pulled it off and my Mom said it was great so I’m pretty pumped. Seafood based menus are like…The Most.

First Course:  Lightly roasted shrimp skewers with a tomato basil side sauce.

Second Course:  Lobster bisque with a fresh garlic bread! Lobster bisque from scratch was A JOURNEY. By far the most difficult thing to make on the menu. 

Third Course:  Baked Salmon with a brown sugar and walnut glaze, roasted garlic potatoes and a tossed salad with strawberries!

Not Pictured: Dessert was cake and ice cream!