I do not exaggerate when I say that I have spent about 35 years perfecting my Italian tomato sauce. As I have stated before, I have many different tomato-based sauces that I use with different kinds of Italian food (e.g., see my Ragù finto or pizza sauce recipes), but this is my favorite. It is fabulous with lasagna and other cheese and noodle dishes that require a rich and zesty tomato sauce. I always make this sauce with Italian sausage (try my fresh Italian sausage). Sometimes I will use meatballs instead. But the sausage gives a wonderful flavor to the sauce and vice versa. I also make a lot of sauce at one time, because it has to cook for 4 hours. Later, I will show you how you can bottle the sauce to preserve it.
Ingredients (it is enough to make two large pans of lasagna – or 10 to 12 servings of spaghetti):
3 – 28 oz cans of plum tomatoes (whole) – use San Marzano if you can find them. If not, Hunts will do. (I will write an article on San Marzano plum tomatoes later and try to point you toward the real thing.)
9 – 6 oz cans of tomato paste (I typically use Hunts)
Water as directed
1 pinch of baking soda
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry oregano (or equivalent fresh). Although fresh is generally best, it does not have much impact on the taste of this sauce so I suggest dry.
1 teaspoon dry basil (or equivalent fresh). Same here – you don’t need fresh.
I have already mentioned the importance of the sausage, but there are two other things that help to make this a superb sauce. The pinch of soda takes away the acidic flavor that can come from tomatoes. But be careful not to use too much. I made that mistake one time and it ruined the sauce - just one pinch. The other thing is to not take shortcuts on the cooking time. It is crucial to cook on medium heat for 4 hours. The bottom of the pan will collect some burned sauce – for God’s sake, don’t scrape this off the bottom. I also made that mistake one time and the sauce tasted burnt obviously. Stir about every 10 to 15 minutes and don’t worry about some sauce clinging to the bottom of the pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place 3 cans of the whole plum tomatoes in a large stainless steel pot (and I mean large – this is a lot of sauce. My pot is about 8 inches deep and a foot in diameter). Crush the tomatoes. Fill each can with water and add that to the pot. Add the tomato paste along with one can of water per tomato paste can (I like to use hot water so I can get the last bit of paste left in the can to dissolve). Add all the spices and the mushrooms and cook on medium heat for 4 hours. Meanwhile, spread the sausage out in a baking dish and place in the oven to cook for 30 minutes or until it begins to brown. Once the sausage is finished, cut the links into about 1 inch long pieces and add all of them to the pot. They should cook at least 3 hours in the sauce.
Use a large pan
The tomatoes and paste
Cooked and cut sausage
The finished sauce
Once the sauce has cooked for 4 hours, remove the sausage with a slotted spoon. You can store the sauce in the refrigerator until needed or bottle to preserve. Enjoy.
The finished sausage
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This sauce is delicious. I did not use link sausage, I used ground Italian sausage and fried it and put it in the sauce. I didn't use mushrooms because I didn't have any. I don't know if I want to alter it, as it was really good this way. My wife who doesn't like Italian sausage, cleaned her plate with bread. This is a must try recipe. Thanks.