Day 167: Quick Tomato Sauce ♥

2005 ORIGINAL: 'Quick', of course, is relative. Is 15 minutes in the dentist chair 'quick'? Sure, if you feared an hour. But not if your mouth is pried open and big hands with metal tools are probing inside while a light pierces into your eyes and swoony music plays in your brain.

But back to quick tomato sauce. It did pull together in 10 minutes with another 10 on the stove. The kids can't waste away from hunger in just 30 minutes, can they?

But it reminded me of perhaps my most important kitchen lesson ever, that it's easier to cook a LOT than a LITTLE. If you cook only a little, it's hard work to put a whole meal on the table. Entree, salad and vegetable? AND a dessert, of course, because why cook if there's no sweet reward at the end? There's the planning, all those ingredients, timing issues, plus clean up and worst of all, emptying the *&^%^&* dishwasher.

But when you cook a lot, you've had your eye a simple weeknight chicken recipe and know the ingredients are on hand. Plus you have things tucked away in the frig, a piece of salmon, some leftover vegetable, a dressing to transform a salad from simple to spectacular. My goal, easier said than done, I admit, is to cook no more than one thing at any meal, at most, two and then only if one is extraordinarily simple.

That's why it's easier to cook a lot than to cook a little. It's why I recommend that new cooks start with ONE thing at a meal, relying on carry-out or prepared foods for the rest. Gain some confidence, don't let yourself get stressed. This is supposed to be fun, NOT the dentist's chair. (With apologies to Dr Silva!)

2007 PHOTO & RECIPE UPDATE: Good canned tomatoes are likely important here. I used a $4 can of San Marzano tomatoes for the first time, pricey until compared to the likely alternative, carry-out or drive-through food. Inspired by 101 Cookbook's Five-Minute Tomato Sauce, I upped the oil, the red pepper flakes and added lime zest. It was extraordinarily satisfying ... unadorned over hot pasta.

TOMATO SAUCE from FRESH TOMATOES During the summer's tomato season, skip the canned tomatoes and instead make Fresh Tomato Sauce, nearly as quick, spectacularly fresh.

Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Time to table: 20 minutes
Makes 3 cups

1 tablespoon olive oil (reduced from 2 tablespoons in 2005, used 1/4 cup in 2007)
1 large onion, chopped (optional, skipped this in 2007)
2 - 3 garlic cloves, minced
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes (in 2005 Red Gold, in 2007 San Marzano)
Red pepper flakes to taste (in 2005, the 1 teaspoon specified was WAY too much for my palate, in 2007 1 1/2 teaspoons was a lot but not unbearable and was 'filling' and 'satisfying' in its own way)
Salt to taste
Zest of a lime or lemon (2007 addition)

Heat a small saucepan on MEDIUM, add the oil. When it's hot, just enough time to chop the onion, add the onion and stir to coat with the oil. Let cook for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt (unless, unlike me, you can remember to add it at the end). Increase the heat to MEDIUM HIGH and bring to a boil. Let simmer gently, stirring occasionally, to let the liquid cook down, about 20 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to avoid sticking. Stir in lemon zest. Serve over hot pasta.

Per 1/4 cup, made with 1 tablespoon olive oil and an onion: 32 Cal (30% from Fat, 9% from Protein, 61% from Carb); 1 g Protein; 1 g Tot Fat; 0 g Sat Fat; 5 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; NetCarb4; 9 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 329 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 0 points

Per 1/4 cup, made with 1/4 cup olive oil and no onion: 55 Cal (71% from Fat, 4% from Protein, 24% from Carb); 1 g Protein; 5 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 3 g Mono Fat; 4 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; NetCarb3; 0 g Sugar; 2 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 328 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 1 point

Sara Moulton Cooks at Home
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Wow, that looks like a really versatile sauce! Off topic, I tagged you for the 23/5 case you have time to write it :)


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna