Last month, The New York Times published a special section called “The New Essentials of French Cooking.” The idea was to encourage home cooks to master ten classic dishes of the French cuisine. Each recipe was beautifully photographed and explained in detail with a brief history of the dish. Surely, it was a great read for a foodie like me. As I was reading through the recipes, an idea popped in my head, why not create a series of recipes listing my own essentials and show you ways of using that recipe in other recipes to create simple dishes for your family? Since then I have been on a mission to find my go-to dishes and have been brainstorming on ways to share them with you. This homemade tomato basil sauce is the first recipe for my essential series.
I know that some of you might find store-bought tomato sauce to be convenient. I’ll admit; I have purchased tomato sauce from a supermarket before. I agree that it is hard to beat the fact that it is such a time-saving shortcut when you need to put dinner on the table on a Tuesday night. However, I think it is also hard to beat the quality of homemade tomato sauce over the supermarket one.
The recipe that I share here is one that I make all the time and keep it in my fridge. It freezes well so if you want to make a big batch of it and have some of it stocked up in your fridge, feel free to do so.
My Tips and Tricks for the Best Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce:
The best thing about this sauce is the fact that it is made with only a few ingredients. But as in all simple recipes, the quality and amount of ingredients you use play a big role in the end product. So here are a few of my tips and tricks to help you, as you make your own.
Whole Tomatoes versus Crushed Tomatoes:
Before I start talking about whole versus crushed tomatoes, please know that the recipe below uses canned tomatoes because I wanted it to be one that you can make year around. If you have fresh tomatoes feel free to use them instead. However if you are using canned tomatoes, I recommend using whole canned tomatoes, as most of the time the only ingredients in those cans are peeled tomatoes and tomato juice. I agree that the crushed canned tomatoes are convenient, but they are also packed with chemicals like citric acid and calcium chloride to help them retain their shape.
When I make a big batch of this sauce, I use my food processor to crush them faster. If you decide to do so I would recommend using the pulse button and just give them a light crush instead of pureeing them. This way you would end up with chunky tomatoes in your sauce. But if you like your sauce pureed (with no chunky tomatoes) then go for a longer pulse.
I am a huge fan of garlic. I am that person, who uses more garlic than recipes ask for. Throughout the years that I made this sauce, I have doubled (may have even tripled) the amount of garlic used in this sauce. But quite honestly, even though garlic is the main flavoring of this recipe, using more garlic does not give you a tastier sauce. It makes it bitter. So my ratio for two 28-ounce canned tomatoes is to use 5 large cloves of freshly minced garlic. It is more than most similar tomato recipes use so if you prefer yours with less garlicky taste, feel free to use 3 cloves.
During the initial cooking, be sure to keep an eye on the garlic and give it a stir often as garlic cooks quickly and burns easily. With that being said, you do need to cook the garlic for it to release all of its flavors so do not leave site of it while it is cooking.
Fresh Basil Leaves For The Finishing Touch:
The second flavoring agent after garlic in this sauce is fresh basil leaves you put in the sauce at the very end. Since basil leaves are very thin they bruise easily. So instead of cutting with a knife, tear them with your hands right before you put them in the sauce. They don’t have to be uniformed in size, as they will melt shortly after you place them in the sauce.
If you are not a fan of basil or want to try variations of this sauce, you can swap basil with cilantro, Italian parsley, or oregano.
Storing and Freezing:
As I mentioned earlier, you can make a big batch of this sauce, store in the fridge (up to a week) or in the in the freezer (up to a month). Best thing to do is to store them in airtight plastic containers or freezer safe glass jars. Yes, you read it right. I use glass jars to freeze tomato sauce. Quite honestly, I had no idea that I can freeze food in glass jars until I read Rebecca Katz’s cookbook Clean Soups. The following about containers is from her book (page:12):
“If using glass containers be sure they are made of tempered glass that can be frozen. If you are using any type of plastic, be sure it is BPA-free and that the soup (in our case, the sauce) has cooled completely before storing…”
If you decide to use glass jars, leave one to two inches of space at the top of the jar to prevent it from cracking in the freezer. If you are in need of a recommendation, I use these Ball Mason “PINT” Jars or WECK jars to do the job and never had a problem.
Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce
A life saving homemade tomato basil sauce recipe that will help you put dinner on the table in no time.
- Prep Time: 10 min
- Cook Time: 25 min
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 cups
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: American
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes *, crushed in food processor or by hand (read the blog post for details)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon organic cane sugar (or regular sugar)
- 8-10 leaves of fresh basil, roughly torn
- Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottom pan in medium heat. Add in the garlic. Cook stirring regularly, until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Do not leave site of it as garlic burns easily.
- Add in the tomato, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Cook in medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until it thickens, 20-25 minutes.
- Stir in the chopped fresh basil and turn the heat off. Let it cool down to room temperature.
- Divide it amongst freezer friendly jars or other airtight containers.
- Feel free to freeze it up to a month or keep in the fridge up to a week.