Tomato Sauce for Spaghetti, Lasagna, Pizza, and Baked Eggplant


Tomato Sauce for Spaghetti, Lasagna, Pizza, and Baked Eggplant 

This is the simple red tomato sauce as I now make it after a long cooking career of experiment, trial and error. It still has elements of the way my mother made her spaghetti sauce.  Americans, but not Italians, often call this a “marinara” (sailor’s) sauce. Italians would call the vegetarian red tomato sauce simply “Sugo di Pomodoro” – tomato sauce. 

The sauce can be used on its own with pasta, topping it with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. If you simmer meatballs in this sauce, rather than fry them, you have a nice spaghetti and meatball topping for pasta, Or, use the sauce in making lasagna; add vodka and cream for a vodka sauce; or top breaded, fried sliced eggplant or chicken along with mozzarella cheese for eggplant parmesan or chicken parmesan. The sauce also works well on homemade pizza. 

The most important part of a good sauce is the quality of the tomatoes. At the restaurant we have access to wonderful “ground” (crushed) tomatoes from a specialist company in central California. But their products are only available commercially in bulk. In my experience with supermarket canned tomatoes, Hunts brand works the best. Since American tomatoes are somewhat acidic, and a little citric acid is used for safety in the canning process, adding some sugar to the sauce is helpful.  

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large (28-ounce) can crushed unseasoned tomatoes (Hunts works well)

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Small pinch ground cloves

2 tablespoons water to rinse tomato can

Mince the garlic and place it in a pot (not cast iron) with the olive oil. Do not heat yet. Open the can of tomatoes and add the seasoning ingredients to the top of the tomatoes. 

Gently fry garlic in oil until softened but not golden. Stir in tomatoes and seasonings. Put two tablespoons water into the tomato can, swish it around and add it to the sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Taste and add a little salt, if needed.

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