Making a simple pasta sauce that is both easy to prepare and higher quality than the store-bought varieties available at the grocery store is not as daunting a proposition as one might think. Because your simple pasta sauce will contain fresh ingredients and no preservatives, it will no doubt prove to be a tastier and healthier alternative than the store-bought brands.
The most important ingredient to your simple pasta sauce is, of course, tomatoes. Be sure to choose ripe tomatoes that are not bruised or too soft. Roma tomatoes work best for the sauce, and you will need several of them: buy about 15-18 tomatoes. Peel the tomatoes either by slicing the skin off with a sharp knife, or by boiling them for a minute or less, then immediately placing them in ice cold water. The skins should then peel off easily.
Once your tomatoes are peeled, squeeze them into a large pot until they are pulpy. Don’t worry if your pasta sauce seems chunky at this point. The tomatoes will break down as the sauce cooks, creating a thick and flavorful sauce. Some cooks will peel out the seeds and most of the juices before crushing the tomatoes into the pot, which will create a thicker sauce in less cooking time. This is up to the cook.
If you plan on canning and freezing your pasta sauce, do not add too many spices. They will become stronger and bitterer upon storing, and you can always add the spices later on when you are ready to use the sauce. If you are not storing your sauce, wait until the tomatoes have been simmering for several minutes -- a half hour is a good general rule -- before you add your spices. While the types of spices used in the simple pasta sauce are generally up to the cook’s discretion, typical staples include basil, parsley, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add them to taste.
Be sure to simmer the sauce on low heat. You do not want to burn the sauce, but instead want the tomatoes to break down and the simple pasta sauce to thicken. Simmering the sauce on low heat will burn off the excess water and allow the flavors of the spices to mesh into the sauce. Add a small amount of red wine or balsamic vinegar for a richer taste, and if you are canning, be sure to add lemon juice to acidify the simple pasta sauce for storage.
Optional ingredients include chopped onion, chopped black olives, capers, chopped mushrooms, chopped green peppers, or ground beef. While many cooks will simmer the sauce for many hours, you can serve your simple pasta sauce when it thickens to your liking. The longer the sauce simmers, the more time the spices have to work their flavor into the sauce. If your sauce does not seem to be thickening to your liking, try adding some canned tomato paste or some corn starch.
If you are canning your pasta sauce, be sure to research canning methods that will safely and effectively preserve your sauce for future use.