Let me preface this recipe by admitting that this is not an exact replica of our old-world famiglia recipe. I have added herbes de Provence and fennel. Personally, I really enjoy the additional flavors. Adding the fennel especially gives this sauce an extra kick that reminds me of my pre-vegetarian days when pasta sauce was accompanied by Italian sausage. For some reason, I feel like it rounds out the sauce very nicely and completes a pasta dish so that it doesn’t even require any meat. But, if you are super interested in adding meat or super un-interested in having fennel in your sauce, just remove the herbs and spices, cook up some ground beef, and throw it in the pot with the sauce!
I have gotten into the habit of making this sauce once a month and freezing it. It can stay frozen for several weeks and be thawed for use in lasagna, manicotti, cannelloni, or plain old spaghetti! You do have to be around to stir it for at least two hours in order for all of the flavors to develop well, so I would suggest making this on a weekend.
Sicilian Tomato Sauce
Makes about 32 ounces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
28 ounces crushed or peeled San Marzano tomatoes (our Safeway doesn’t carry crushed so I settled for peeled and it worked out fine)
6 ounces tomato paste
1 tablespoon fennel
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh basil
28 ounces water (roughly, I just used the San Marzano can for measurement)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda (to reduce the acidity)
First, mince the garlic and cook it in the olive oil over medium heat in a deep pasta pot. Let it cook until it is tender and fragrant (around 5 minutes, but watch it carefully because you don’t want it to brown).
Once the garlic is cooked, add in the San Marzano tomatoes and stir everything together. While you are stirring, make sure to crush the large pieces of tomato (this will be especially necessary for anyone who uses the peeled tomatoes instead of the crushed ones).
Add in the tomato paste and let the sauce continue to simmer. Stir until everything is blended.
While the tomatoes and garlic continue to simmer, measure out the fennel, oregano, herbes de Provence, and kosher salt.
Stir everything together and let it simmer for at least 2 hours. While the sauce is simmering, you can add in the water (about 8 ounces at a time). How much water you add is really up to you: how much sauce you want to make, and how thick you’re interested in the sauce being. I added in almost a full can’s worth and the resulting sauce was still flavorful and hearty!
After about an hour and a half of simmering, add in the sugar. (I know it seems weird, but trust me it makes the sauce delicious and brings out the tomato flavor!) Once the sugar is stirred in, sprinkle the baking soda across the top of the sauce. The sauce will quickly foam up and take on a lighter color, this is good! Stir it in, and your sauce will be less acidic and sit more pleasantly in your dinner guests’ stomachs!
P.S. If you are going to be eating this sauce with spaghetti immediately after making it, you can boil up a few eggs and plop them in the sauce. This is– as my grandfather always explained– the Sicilian way to eat pasta, not the Italian way! It is delicious and makes the sauce super creamy when it gets mixed in with the yolk!
This sauce is also amazing as a dip for pretzels, calzones, or cheese sticks. I use it with lasagna, stuffed pasta shells, and about a billion other things! It is a fabulous staple to keep in your freezer!