Make your own tomato sauce

Ingredients for homemade tomato sauce

My sauce features tomatoes, but also includes fennel and eggplant. I vary the ingredients, depending on what's in season.

By Sarah Kiely

HOMEMADE tomato sauce starts with a good recipe. With a little customization, you can take it from good to great, and offer your own specialty of the house.

San Marzano and Roma are my favorite varieties for sauce, but any tomato will work. You can even use cherry tomatoes, but unless you remove all of the seeds, it makes a pretty thin sauce.

Homemade tomato sauce

A pot of finished sauce

You can add body by using eggplant, which also adds a depth of flavor that is irreplaceable. I suggest Italian eggplants (often called Sicilian or Graffiti) because they are less bitter and have thinner skin and fewer seeds. Japanese eggplants work well, too.

The kind of wine you use will affect the depth of the flavor. A Cabernet goes well with any sauce you intend to serve with meat, such as sausage or meatballs. You could also choose a Marsala and get a lot of flavor without making the sauce quite so heavy.

More than anything, be creative. Start out by including some of the other vegetables from your garden. Eventually, you'll find your own secret ingredient!

Sarah's Tomato Sauce

My recipe makes about a quart of sauce, but you can double or triple the recipe to make more.

NOTE: For a smoother sauce, use a tomato press to process the tomatoes.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 bulbs of fennel, greens removed, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped fine (1 tbsp dried)
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped fine (2 tsp dried)
  • 1 head of garlic, minced (about 10 cloves)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup robust red wine, such as Cabernet or Marsala
  • 2-3 pounds of tomatoes, seeded and quartered
  • 2 medium Italian eggplants, peeled and chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add fennel, onion and herbs; saute until onions are almost translucent. Stir or shake the pan often to keep the herbs from scorching.

Add garlic and sauté for another minute, being careful not to scorch the mixture.

Add wine and simmer to reduce until most of the liquid is gone, but do not let the pan go dry.

In a large stockpot, combine combine the tomatoes, eggplant, and the fennel-onion mixture. Over medium-low heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover.

Important: Don't let your sauce scorch! It's about the only thing you can do to ruin a beautiful fresh sauce.

Simmer for two to three hours, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.When the sauce is ready, the flavors should be blended and the vegetables should be soft. Season with salt and pepper.

For storage, I pour the sauce into 1-pint plastic tubs and freeze. You can also use zip-top freezer bags. To store longer, follow instructions for preparing canning jars and lids, using the water-bath method.


  • This sauce is not just for pasta. For instance, it works beautifully with pot roast.
  • A tomato press makes quick work of seeding the tomatoes.
  • For a finer textured sauce, use a food mill to remove any bits of tomato skin and seeds from the tomatoes and eggplants.
  • For a really smooth sauce, let it cool and process it in a blender or food processor until you achieve the desired consistency.
  • To make the sauce thicker for use on pizza, add 6 ounces of tomato paste per quart of sauce.

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