This might sound quite fancy but don’t be fooled: this is the easiest tomato sauce ever. Less is more with this sauce but what matters here is good quality and fresh ingredients, which are truly the cornerstone of Italian cooking.
The stars of this recipe are good San Marzano tomatoes and fresh herbs. If you have a bunch of aromatics sitting in your fridge, it’s the moment to use them. Basil, parsley, rosemary and thyme would be great but really if you only had one of those, it would work too. By the way, I was curious to know why San Marzano tomatoes were regarded as the best and here’s the deal: they are grown in the rich volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius, which gives them a sweet flavor and low acidity. Back to the recipe…
The secret is to start the base of the sauce by infusing olive oil with the herbs. Fresh herbs give the sauce a wonderful fragrance and flavor. I would love to tell you that you could substitute dried herbs to make it easier but this would really undermine the integrity of the recipe so please don’t. I actually use dried herbs with parsimony as I find it can be a bit overpowering at times.
Once the herbs have finished their job, they are done and it’s time to bring in the other star player, the San Marzano tomatoes that I advise you to crush by hands before throwing in the pan. Cooked with some onion and garlic and a pat of butter, the sauce will thicken and get lusciously velvety. If you are dubious about the butter, think of Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce, a true genius recipe.
The sauce is so simple that it works particularly well with more complex pasta like gnocchis, ravioli. But really, it would work with any pasta shape. It would even a fantastic filling for some lasagna. Hope you’ll give it a try!
1/4 cup good olive oil
Fresh herbs (ideally about 6-8 stems of parsley, basil, rosemary and thyme)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled but kept whole
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 28 ounces can San Marzano tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
In a skillet over low heat, add the olive oil, the garlic cloves and the fresh herbs of your choice.
Let it cook a few minutes until the herbs start to crisp and the garlic cloves start to brown.
Discard the herbs and garlic and add the onion to the pan.
Cook until the onion start to soften.
Crush the tomatoes by hand and add them to the pan, along with their juice.
Add a pat of butter, a bit of salt and pepper.
Lower the heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until the sauce thickens.