Easy Pizza Sauce

OK, I know its easy to pick up a jar of pizza sauce at the grocery but what do you do if you find yourself ready to make a pizza but don’t have any pre-made pizza sauce? Um, you make it yourself and after the first time you make, you might never buy pizza sauce again. We’ve been making our own pizzas for a few years now have settled on a couple techniques. One is to use the pizza dough from Trader Joe’s because it’s so convenient and it taste good. The other method is to use Trader Joe’s Lavash Bread. We’ve used a lot of different sauces for the pizza but we’d never set out to make a traditional pizza sauce because we always have a jar or can of a store bought sauce. One day we realized we didn’t have any pizza sauce so we looked online for directions. There are a lot of them but we didn’t want to spend hours simmering a sauce and we didn’t want to use a lot of ingredients. When we found a selection with simple ingredients and simple cooking methods, we took the flavor profile we were looking for and came up with this easy pizza sauce recipe. We’ve used it a number of times now and it always turns out great.

Some comments on the ingredients – this is supposed to be easy and from items already in your pantry.  If you don’t have the separate containers of oregano, basil and rosemary, you can substitute with 1 1/2 tablespoons of Italian Seasoning mix. If you don’t have garlic cloves you can substitute with other forms of garlic. Check out this conversion for using garlic powder, garlic salt, etc.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils.

Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, or until it has the thick consistency of pizza sauce.

Allow sauce to cool and spread on pizza dough and add the toppings of your choice.

 

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Sunday Gravy, Ragu or Italian Meat Sauce

Sunday Gravy versus just a regular meat sauce? Maybe it’s a ragu? To be honest, I’m not a purist who knows the difference. I seem to have a hard time figuring out what each one is and I see contradictory information everywhere. Maybe it’s a regional dialect rather than different recipes/dishes. Regardless of what you call it, I do appreciate a meaty tomato sauce that is allowed to simmer for hours on the stove. Today we decided to make some pasta and a meat sauce for our Sunday dinner. I started looking online for some recipe inspiration and found a lot of recipes, but they were all mostly the same. To my surprise, the ones that claimed to be the most authentic were the ones that are the most similar to the sauce my dad used to make. When I was a kid, we simply called it “spaghetti,” which I always thought was the name of the dish, not just the name of the noodle. I guess he inherited it from his mother and it is the only food dish I remember him preparing. Everything else he “made” for dinner involved a telephone or a microwave. I do remember that my dad’s spaghetti came with a meat sauce, which I preferred over my uncle’s spaghetti that was served with meatballs. Apparently there was a minor rivalry between the two of them as to which version was best and authentic.

For those of you who don’t know, my dad was “mostly” Italian. His mom was born in the US a few years after her parents came over from Abruzzo. His dad was German and French but for various reasons, he never connected with that side of his family. In terms of what he considered his ethnicity, he always seems to think of himself as Italian-American, even though we did get stuck with a German last name.

For this sauce today, I used a blend of recipes that I found that reminded me the most of the sauce I knew as a kid. The first recipe I used as a base is from the blog “A table for two” titled “Great Grandma’s Pasta Sauce” and Julie gives a great narrative of how she came upon this recipe from her Italian husband. The other recipe comes from the book “Breaking Bread in L’Aquila” by Maria Filice. This is my go-to book for authentic Abruzzese recipes. I’ve mentioned her book before and I highly recommend it for traditional Italian cooking.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped (or more if you’re like me)
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 35-oz cans of crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 6-oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 handful of fresh basil, chopped, or 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (for mild) or 1 tablespoon for spicy
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Garlic & OnionHeat a dutch over or large sauce pan over medium heat. Then, add the olive oil and heat it. Then, add the onion, garlic and carrot. Cook this mixture (a variation of a soffritto that we use all the time) for a couple minutes and then add the meat. Cook this until the meat is fully cooked and the onions are translucent. This will take about 10 minutes.

Ground beef cooking

Now, add the tomatoes. Some recipes call for adding just the crushed tomatoes without the water from the can and then adding the tomato paste and using that can for water. Instead, we used the 2 cans of tomatoes (water and all) and then added the paste. This way we didn’t have to add extra water for the paste. Then add the basil, oregano and pepper flakes and stir in completely.

Sauce simmering

Allow this sauce to simmer for at least 2 hours on the stove, stirring occasionally. After an hour or so, the tomatoes will start to break down and you can crush them up. We let our sauce simmer for about three hours and then served it over some homemade spaghetti pasta.

Finished SauceWhen we finished simmering this sauce, we served it over the homemade pasta and had a side salad. It was so good was jokingly called it “Red Gold”!

Plated pasta and sauce

UPDATE: I just found recent posting on Soffritto from one of the people I follow on WordPress so I wanted to share a link to Barry’s published article “Soffritto: The Holy Trinity