Real Recipes From Real Home Cooks ®

traditional italian red sauce

Recipe by
Andy Anderson !
Wichita, KS

I’ve been hitting the sauce a lot lately. Okay, first off, this isn’t your basic tomato sauce that’s spooned over pasta in every major Italian restaurant chain in the United States. And it isn’t that tomato sauce that you whip up in 30 minutes on your stovetop, although that can be quite tasty. This is the sauce from which legends are born… it’s the kind of sauce that when your neighbors get a whiff, are at your front door ready to eat. It’s a sauce that you not only toss with your pasta; you spoon extra on top, because you can’t get enough. So, you ready… let’s get into the kitchen.

yield 6 -8
prep time 25 Min
cook time 6 Hr
method Bake

Ingredients For traditional italian red sauce

  • 56 oz
    (2-28 ounce cans) whole peeled tomatoes, like cento
  • 1/4 c
    olive oil, extra virgin
  • 2 Tbsp
    sweet butter, unsalted
  • 4 clove
    fresh garlic, minced (3/4 ounce)
  • 1/2 tsp
    crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp
    oregano, dried
  • 1 md
    carrot, rough cut (4-5 ounces)
  • 1/2 md
    yellow onion, rough cut (4-5 ounces)
  • 4
    fresh basil leaves, including the stem
  • salt, kosher variety, to taste
  • black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
  • 1/4 c
    fresh italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp
    fish sauce (optional)

How To Make traditional italian red sauce

  • 1
    Gather your ingredients.
  • 2
    Introduce the tomatoes (including the juice) to a large bowl.
  • 3
    Crush the tomatoes up using your hands.
  • 4
    Chef’s Tip: Use your hands… It’s therapeutic.
  • 5
    Take about three cups of the tomatoes, and reserve.
  • 6
    Prep the remaining ingredients, and have them on hand.
  • 7
    In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil.
  • 8
    When the butter has melted and the foaming subsides, add the garlic.
  • 9
    Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic begins to color, about 1 minute.
  • 10
    Add the crushed red pepper flakes, and the oregano.
  • 11
    Cook an addition minute, or until fragrant.
  • 12
    Chef’s Tip: Okay, here’s the deal. I want the garlic to cook for about two minutes; however, if I wait to add the other spices until the garlic begins to brown… The result will be burned garlic. So, we’re adding the other ingredients a bit early for the garlic. But, understand, that the garlic will color, and then brown, and then burn very quickly. Therefore, keep an eye on your pot, and watch the heat.
  • 13
    Add the tomatoes, and combine.
  • 14
    Add the chopped carrot, onion, and basil.
  • 15
    Stir to combine.
  • 16
    Place a rack in the lower position, and preheat oven to 265f (130c).
  • 17
    Chefs’s Tip: Bring the sauce up to a boil, and then quickly return to a simmer. This technique works well with many sauces; however, don’t try it if the sauce has a milk, or heavy cream.
  • 18
    As the sauce is simmering add a bit of salt, and pepper.
  • 19
    Chef’s Tip: Since this sauce is going to reduce, you don’t want to add too much salt at this stage of the game.
  • 20
    Cover the pot, with lid slightly askew, and place into the preheated oven.
  • 21
    Allow to cook in the oven; giving it a quick stir every hour.
  • 22
    After about 5 or 6 hours it should be reduced by half, and have a nice deep red coloring.
  • 23
    Chef’s Note: The time depends on the calibration of your oven. Ovens can be off by 20 or more degrees (I hate it when that happens). I have my ovens calibrated every year. This is what you should do: When you open the oven every hour to give it a quick stir, if it looks like it’s cooking too fast… lower the temperature. Aunt Josephine baked this at 300f (150c), and it took a bit over 5 hours. I would rather turn the temp down a bit, and have the sauce take a bit more time, than stick to an arbitrary temperature and let it burn. Use your chef’s intuition… May the force be with you.
  • 24
    Remove from the oven, and then discard the carrots, onions, and basil.
  • 25
    Chef’s Tip: Best way to do this is to go fishing with a pair of tongs.
  • 26
    Add the reserved tomatoes to the pot, and stir to combine.
  • 27
    Add the fish sauce (optional), and stir.
  • 28
    Add the parsley, and stir to combine.
  • 29
    Chef's Tip: Season again (if needed) with salt and pepper.
  • 30
    Serve over your favorite pasta dishes, or use as a sauce for a meatball sub. Enjoy.
  • 31
    Keep the faith, and keep cooking.