I’ve struggled for much of my life to find a pasta sauce I liked that wasn’t prohibitively priced. In the US, our family liked Barilla sauce (to match our Barilla pasta, of course). But here in Israel, we find, the pasta is still affordable, but the sauce is not. (It comes in jars half the size of the ones in the States, at twice the price.) We’ve tried a number of jarred sauces here, and they range from just okay to disgusting.
Of course, my children like the absolutely worst-tasting sauces on the market, and until recently I have been willing to buy them for them (while also buying the more expensive, better-tasting stuff for the Cap’n and me). But then we have two jars of sauce sitting in the refrigerator, growing mold since I’ve cut down on the amount of pasta we eat.
I was grousing recently about the poor pasta sauce situation to Ilana Epstein, my friend and cooking guru, and she offered me a simple solution: Make it myself. (Now why didn’t I think of that?) She says she makes pasta sauce every week, and has found a balance of flavors and acidity that pleases her picky children as well as herself and her husband. Below is her recipe:
2 large onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 lg can (28 oz or 800 g) whole peeled tomatoes
1 lg can (28 oz or 800 g) chopped tomatoes
1 handful basil leaves (more, to taste)
A sprinkle of fresh or dried oregano
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onions in a little olive oil. Add garlic, then both cans of tomatoes. (Be sure onions are completely softened and cooked before adding tomatoes, as the acid from the tomatoes will stop the onions from cooking.) Using a knife, break up the whole tomatoes while they simmer in the pot. Season with herbs, and add brown sugar and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
This sauce makes a chunky sauce. For those who like chunky sauces, you’re done! If you prefer a smoother sauce, run it through a food mill for a more even texture, or whiz it in a blender for super-smooth sauce.
One can vary the recipe. Ilana recommends including roasted garlic instead of fresh, or adding chopped celery and carrots to the onions for a nice Napolitana sauce. Tinker with the acidity to get it to taste, either adding lemon juice to add acidity or sugar to decrease.
This recipe makes 1.5 liters, enough for one dinner’s worth of lasagna or baked ziti, and some left over for the children to have with pasta for lunches.