red sauce

Red Sauce, As My Mama Makes It

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Like many Italians, my first cooking memory is learning how to make red sauce with my mom. I remember her telling me to cut the onion as small as I could. Oh, and don’t forget the bay leaves when it’s simmering, she’d exclaim. She’s a good teacher, and a seriously talented cook.

We always made a big batch and froze half of it for the following week. But this recipe serves about two people for pasta or a small parmigiana/stuffed shells. It can easily be multiplied for more servings.

Basic Red Sauce


Serves about 2
– 2 Tbs. olive oil
– 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
– 1 tsp. dry basil, separated
– 1 tsp. dry oregano, separated
– kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 1 Tbs. minced fresh garlic (I use a lot, so if you’re not as big of a garlic fan, use less–I won’t judge you!)
– Splash of a dry red wine
– 26.5 oz strained tomatoes, I use Pomi brand
– 2 bay leaves
– Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese rind (when I’m done with a wedge of parmigiano, I store the rinds in my freezer–perfect for making soups and sauces, like this!)

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir with a wooden spoon until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp. of basil, 1/2 tsp. of oregano, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper, constantly stirring until  the garlic is aromatic (don’t burn the garlic!)

Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits from the onion, letting cook for about 2 minutes. Pour in the strained tomatoes and stir in the bay leaves, the rest of the spices, and the cheese rind if using.

Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for no less than an 45 min but no more than 3 hours (it should reduce very slightly, if at all.) Enjoy!

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