Recipe: Basic Tomato Sauce (with Optional Zing!)

published May 6, 2008
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

For the sauce-hungry crowd, here is a basic tomato sauce, with some lemony and spicy elements for adding an optional zing. It’s easy, quick, and isn’t a boring old sauce. Basic sauces were one of the requested items from Cure-takers. This week’s assignment was to add a new skill to your cooking arsenal. So if you’re looking for a new sauce and don’t want to fuss with any complicated, slow-cooked recipes, here is a great way to have tomato sauce on your pasta in less than 30 minutes.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Basic Tomato Sauce
Makes 2 cups, enough for 4 modest portions

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can whole or chopped tomatoes, with juices
pinch (or 1/4 teaspoon if you like it hot) dried red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel (about 1/2 lemon)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley or shredded fresh basil
coarse salt
freshly grated black pepper

Spaghetti, or other pasta, cooked al dente
Whole flat-leaf Italian parsley or basil leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan (there is a thought that cooking tomatoes in a cast-iron pan destroys the finish – although I have never found this to be the case and it may even add extra iron to your sauce), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add the red pepper flakes and lemon peel then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, taking some time to smash the tomato pieces so the sauce is more pulpy than chunky. Stir in the chopped parsley. Check for flavor and season appropriately with salt and pepper.

Sauce will keep one week, in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve, add the cooked pasta to the saucepan and stir over very low heat for a few moments, so that the pasta absorbs the sauce. Garnish with a few springs of parsley or basil leaves and a small handful of grated Parmesan.

(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)