The third in the lineup of mother sauces is tomato sauce, which is a generic term for any sauce that is based mainly on tomatoes.
Tomato sauce can either be raw or cooked, from a few minutes to several hours. You can use olive oil or rendered bacon fat to create a delicious sauce.
Classic variations called for pork or veal bones, and the rest were made from tomatoes and a few additional vegetables. Some of the sauces are pureed to remove the chunky consistency, giving the finished sauce a nice smooth texture, while the remainder is left chunky.
Good sauce can be made from quality canned or fresh tomatoes. I'd suggest using fresh home-canned tomatoes, if possible. Tomatoes picked at the peak of ripeness make the perfect sauce, so I suggest using them when they are in season.
Try mixing up the varieties by blending roma (plum) with early harvest or beefsteak tomatoes. Romas tend to be meatier with a higher ratio of flesh to skin and seed, while the beefsteaks are loaded with juicy flavor.
As for additional ingredients, the sky is the limit: fresh basil, garlic, thyme with a Mirepoix, or simply using garlic and onions. In any case, be sure to use a quality, heavy-gauge nonaluminum stockpot for cooking your sauce because the high acid content will react with the pot.
— Scott C. Anderson is associate food service director and chef with Shepherd University dining services in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Chef Ambassador to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
1 ounce quality olive oil
8 tablespoons small-diced onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
6 pounds cored and chopped tomatoes (plum for a meatier sauce or 5 pounds canned, drained)
2 to 4 tablespoons ounces chopped fresh basil
Salt, as needed
Ground black pepper, as needed
Heat oil in heavy-duty, wide, shallow pot over medium heat. Add onions and stir occasionally, until they take on a golden color, about 15 to 18 minutes.
Add garlic and continue to saute, stirring frequently, until the garlic is soft and fragrant, about a minute or less. Do not turn up the heat or it might burn the garlic.
Add tomatoes. If using canned, be sure to drain them before adding. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook over low heat, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes for about 45 to 50 minutes. What you want to see is the tomatoes start to develop into a thicker sauce-like consistency. If the tomatoes have more moisture, you might need to cook for more than an hour; it depends upon the quality of the tomatoes.
Add basil and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes more. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Bring on some fresh pasta or get ready to sauce some chicken Parmesan because you are ready to serve.
Rapidly cool and refrigerate any leftover sauce.
Cook's note: If you want a smooth sauce, remove from pan and process in a food processor or blender. You also can leave the sauce in the pan and process with a submersion blender until the desired consistency is reached.