Fresh Tomato Sauce Recipes

Celebrate the tomato harvest with your own fresh, delicious sauce recipes from Twin Cities chef Jason Ross + links to more than a dozen tomato-centric dishes
Fresh Tomato Sauce atop spaghetti

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

As we move into autumn, is your pantry still bursting at the seams with tomatoes fresh from the vine? Have you already made your fair share of tomato basil salads and eaten your fill of BLT sandwiches (if that’s possible!)? For a delicious taste of the season, make some seriously fresh tomato sauce with these recipes and tips from Twin Cities chef and Saint Paul College Culinary Arts instructor Jason Ross, which appeared in Real Food. The recipes here use a simple method for making fresh tomato sauce, and then he includes two options to either add deep grilled charred flavor or some zest and spice in a curried version.

Which tomatoes make the best fresh tomato sauce? Roma tomatoes or San Marzano (if you can get them) are most commonly used for sauce since they have a low moisture content and make rich flavors, says Ross. However, feel free to use whatever tomato variety is best at the time. A flavorful tomato will make a flavorful sauce. Also, do not be afraid to mix varieties for your sauce, he notes. Try using Roma, beefsteak, and even some heirloom varieties. Cherry and pear tomato work particularly well in the charred sauce.

You will set yourself up for a delicious dinner this weekend or get a step ahead for those busy weeknights when you have these fresh sauces on hand. Plus, scroll down for links to more tomato-centric ideas.

Tomato Tips

These tips bear repeating in any discussion of fresh tomatoes:

Don’t refrigerate tomatoes (unless they’ve been cut open). Store them at room temperature away from sunlight and use within a few days. Cold temperatures stop the ripening process, dull the flavor, and can make the flesh pulpy. Once fully ripe, tomatoes can be refrigerated for a few days, but any longer will cause their flavor to deteriorate.

Want to speed up ripening? Place tomatoes in a paper bag, fold over the top and keep at room temperature or in a warmish spot. For added “ripening power” place a ripening banana or apple in the bag with the green tomatoes can help them ripen since the fruits release ethylene, which is a gas produced by plants known as the “fruit-ripening hormone.” Then don’t forget to peek in the bag periodically to check ripening progress!

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Makes 1 Quart, 6 to 8 Servings

Taste the difference between fresh tomato sauce and canned. Both are good and both have their place, but now is the time to take advantage of the best tomatoes of the year. This sauce does great with simple thin noodles such as angel hair, spaghetti, or bucatini.

¼ cup olive oil
½ onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
½ tablespoon salt
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
1 anchovy, finely minced (optional, see Cook’s Note)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2½ pounds tomatoes, cores removed and roughly chopped
½ teaspoon dry thyme
½ teaspoon dry oregano
1 bay leaf

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, celery and salt. Sweat for about 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon until soft, but not brown.
  2. Add garlic and optional anchovy, stirring for about 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovy melts into the fat.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium high and add tomato paste. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until the paste has changed from a bright red color to more of a clay brick red.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes with their juices, plus the thyme, oregano, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, until tomatoes start to break down and give up more liquid. Bring liquid up to a boil and reduce heat to low, holding a gentle simmer with no lid. The sauce, at this point, will be watery and thin.
  5. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes on a gentle simmer, stirring a few times to prevent scorching, until the sauce is thickened and all tomatoes fully softened. To check the consistency, ladle a little sauce on a clean plate and observe how it looks. Is it watery? Does it run on the plate? If so, cook the sauce a little longer.
  6. Turn off the stove and allow sauce to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, until cool enough to safely puree. Run sauce through a food mill or process in food processor.
  7. Transfer sauce to containers and store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Cook’s Note: Anchovies might seem like an odd addition to tomato sauce, and you could skip them, but you might be surprised at what they do for your sauce. One anchovy in a quart of tomato sauce will not turn it into anchovy flavored sauce, but will instead add subtle flavor to the background. Think of an anchovy as a supplement to salt rather than a central ingredient.

Variation: To make a Charred Chunky Tomato Sauce, prepare a hot grill. Put the tomatoes directly on the grill and cook at high heat until the skins are blackened and blistered on all sides, about 10 minutes. Place charred tomatoes on a tray or in a bowl and wait until they are cool enough to handle. Remove the cores and roughly chop. Make sure to save all the juices. Add the tomatoes to the pot of sweated onion, celery, tomato paste, and optional anchovies, as in step 4 listed above. Add tomato paste and finish cooking the sauce with the herbs. When the sauce is done, skip the food mill or processor, and serve the sauce chunky with all the char on the blackened skins. If you like a little spice, add some chili flakes or minced Fresno chilis to the spices. This sauce does well with penne or orecchiette, or other shapes that hold stew-like sauces.

Nutrition Info Fresh Tomato Sauce (Per Serving): Calories 105 (71 From Fat); Fat 8g (Sat. 1g); Chol 0mg; Sodium 519mg; Carb 8g; Fiber 2g; Protein 2g

Creamy Curry Tomato Sauce

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

Creamy Curry Tomato Sauce

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

Change fresh tomato sauce into a rich curry flavored sauce. Simply sweat some minced aromatic vegetables with curry spices and finish with a little cream. Add the mixture to tomato sauce to create a mild, creamy curry tomato sauce that’s perfect for wide noodles, such as fettuccine or pappardelle, or try it with grilled fish or chicken.

1 tablespoon butter
½ onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground clove
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
1 quart fresh tomato sauce (recipe above)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sweat onion, garlic and ginger for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant and softened. Add spices and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in cream and milk and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened. Add curry cream to 1 quart of fresh tomato sauce.

Hungry for More?

Check out these tomato-centric recipes I have highlighted on this site, including more sauce variations, salsa, chicken salad-stuffed tomatoes, and links to more than a dozen recipes.

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.