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3-2-1 Tomato Sauce

One of the things I love about cooking is that, for me, it is therapeutic. I like getting my hands working, being in my own little world while mixing cookie dough by hand, kneading pasta dough, shelling beans, or precisely chopping vegetables. I sort of get into the rhythm of whatever it is I’m doing and I can become fully relaxed and immersed in my task. Another thing I love is when the aromas of whatever I’m cooking waft from my kitchen into the rest of my home. Even better when they make it out into the hallways of my apartment complex and all passersby salivate at the thought of a home-cooked meal. I get a thrill out of walking the hallways here and smelling everyone else’s kitchens. I try to guess what they’re cooking. Someone in my complex makes garlic bread nearly every morning at seven o’clock. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, when I smell that, I instantly crave fresh-from-the-oven garlic bread and some spaghetti marinara to go with it. I should really make friends with the people who cause wonderful aromas to fill our hallways. I wonder how often my guess is correct about what they’re cooking.

This tomato sauce takes minimal effort to get started, you get to squish the tomatoes between your fingers, throw everything in the pot together, then let it all simmer for a while, letting the aromas of fresh tomatoes fill your home with comfort and get everyone excited about dinner. The best part about this easy tomato sauce is that you can add anything you want to it to make it exactly what you crave in a tomato sauce. If you really just love the taste of tomatoes and don’t want them crowded out by other flavors, then you can just leave this sauce as it is written below. I like spicy tomato sauce so I add crushed red pepper flakes. You can also leave this super chunky or blend until it is super smooth and silky. The length of time you simmer this will determine the thickness of the sauce, while your own tastebuds will determine the final flavors.

To peel or not to peel? Many tomato sauce recipes will instruct you to mark a small X on the bottom of your tomatoes, quickly blanch them, then peel off the skins before proceeding with the sauce-ing. If you are going to leave your tomato sauce very chunky, then I would suggest peeling the tomatoes prior to following the recipe below. If, like me, you like to get your sauce super smooth then you’ll be blending it long enough to get rid of any large pieces of skin. I don’t peel the tomatoes, even when they have super thick skins. The tomatoes pictured above had very thick skins and I actually got a little nervous about them, but I decided to test this recipe without peeling them anyway and there were no traces of skin in my finished sauce! Besides, didn’t our mothers always tell us that the most nutritious part of fruits was the skin?

Now is the perfect time to make and freeze loads of tomato sauce. Your gardens are probably bursting with plump and juicy tomatoes right now, aren’t they? I got the gorgeous heirlooms pictured above from a friend’s garden. Beautiful fruits and vegetables make me long for my own edible garden. Maybe one day I’ll get rid of this darned black thumb! For now, I’ll enjoy the (literal) fruits of other people’s labor.

3-2-1 Tomato Sauce
Yield: 4 cups

3-2-1 Tomato Sauce


  • 3 pounds fresh tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • kosher salt
  • optional additions: crushed red pepper flakes, freshly ground black pepper, dried oregano, finely chopped fresh basil, tomato paste, rosemary, lemon juice


  1. 1. Core tomatoes, squish them with your hands and add to a large soup pot.
  2. 2. Using the side of a chef's knife, crush the garlic cloves, remove the skins, and add to the pot.
  3. 3. Peel and roughly chop the onion and add to the pot. (If you want a very thick sauce, use only 1/2 of the onion)
  4. 4. Place the soup pot over medium heat and cook until the onions and garlic are soft, about 20 minutes.
  5. 5. Transfer the contents of the pot to a blender, or use an immersion blender to blend the ingredients to your desired consistency.
  6. 6. Return the sauce and pot to low heat, add in any additional spices now, and simmer until desired thickness is reached, about 30-90 minutes.

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