Last week, my friend Tomomi mentioned that she was making a pasta sauce that required her to cook onions and garlic for a whole hour, then add whole tomatoes and simmer for another hour. Now, I’m usually all about saving time when it comes to making dinner, but something about the idea of cooking just onions and garlic for an hour really intrigued me. Two hours is a bit of a commitment (especially for weeknight meals), but it sounded as though the recipe itself was very easy and didn’t require a ton of babysitting. Besides, Tomomi’s an excellent judge of food, and if she liked it, I was sure I would, too. I asked her to translate the recipe for me (she found it on a Japanese Web site), and sure enough, it didn’t disappoint!
This sauce was so delicious — it was full of fresh tomato taste, and was tangy but a bit sweet from all the caramelized onions (but the onion flavor wasn’t overwhelming at all). It reminded me a lot of the flavor of the spaghetti sauce at Japanese pasta restaurants. The kids and Johnny all loved it, and Derek even asked for seconds. If you’re a fan of really rich sauces, this might not be for you (in that case, try this spaghetti sauce and meatballs recipe I wrote about last year), but I know this will be part of our regular rotation! It was also very easy to make. The most involved part was chopping up the onion and crushing the garlic — I managed to clean all the floors in my house, do two loads of laundry, put away a dishwasher full of dishes, and play with the kids while the sauce was simmering. It only requires occasional attention. Best of all, you can make this sauce ahead of time and freeze it for an easy meal later.
Unfortunately, by the time I finished making the sauce, it was dark outside, so the pictures in this entry are not my best work. I usually try to make my “blog food” way earlier in the day to take advantage of natural light, but with sunset being so early, and less time at home in the early afternoons these days, that’s been hard to do. Also, I didn’t measure how many cups of sauce I ended up with, but it was enough to generously accompany 4 cups of pasta, and then I had 1.5 cups of sauce left over. I’d say it’s enough sauce to serve five or six hungry adults! So, here goes — thank you for the recipe, Tomomi!
Simple But Scrumptious Tomato Sauce
- 1.5 onions
- 2 cloves garlic (I used four, per Tomomi’s suggestion; if you have shallots on hand, you can substitute one clove of garlic for a shallot for even yummier flavor!)
- 1 28-oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes, or 10-12 fresh tomatoes
- 3-4 basil leaves, torn
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Crushed red pepper flakes (optional, for an extra kick)
If you’re using fresh tomatoes (as I was — organic tomatoes were on sale for a ridiculously low price, so I snapped them up!), score the tomatoes, blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then peel them.
Chop the onions and mince or crush the garlic (I opted for crushing). Heat the olive oil in a pan, then add the onions and garlic. Cook on low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally. By the end of the hour, the onions will have caramelized, and your house will smell heavenly.