Food memories are some of the best memories. One of my fondest is my Nana’s pasta sauce recipe. Growing up, holidays were spent with my Italian American Grandparents. Because of that, there was never a gathering of any significants that didn’t include what I would consider the best pasta sauce recipe. While most American families had traditional holiday foods, like turkey or Ham, as the main, we had Eggplant Parmesan, Lasagna, Italian sausages, and stuffed artichokes (something my Nana would make special just for me). Then, of course, there were turkey (usually a wee bit over-cooked, sorry Nana), Ham, and other classic staples, but nothing compared to the non-traditional, traditional menu items.
Pasta sauce is controversial. There are so many ways to approach making it, so many regional and family techniques, and everyone is right, and everyone else is wrong. Always. I know there will be a comment about how this is NOT the RIGHT WAY going into sharing this recipe. However, there are all sorts of right ways with food; if you like mine, great, if not… the internet is overflowing with free recipes, don’t let me stand in your way.
This recipe does deviate a bit from my Nana’s original. I’ve adjusted a few things over the years that keep the recipe’s integrity alive without compromising the overall essence of the original. The recipe does have some optional, so there is always a little room for a personal twist once you’ve got the basics down.
What is Tomato paste, and why use it?
Tomato paste is a highly concentrated tomato that is reduced into a concentrate. Tomato paste is used because of its ability to build excellent flavor. Using it gives a deeper tomato flavor, with less water from canned or even fresh tomatoes.
To anchovy or not to anchovy, that is the question
Although this recipe doesn’t use them, they can be swapped in instead of the salted pork. Anchovies have gotten a bad wrap over the years, and folks are still pretty divided, but here’s the deal, they dissolve into a sauce when done right. Besides being virtually undetectable, they add a rich meatiness. This is especially ideal for throwing a sauce together last minute.
Not all canned tomatoes are created equally
With that being said, there is nothing wrong with using canned tomatoes. The very best you can buy will be tomatoes with D.O.P from San Marzano, Protected Designation of Origin. This distinction means the tomatoes have been verified and are the most authentic you can get. Other indications you should look for are canned goods that have the furthest expiration date, meaning they are the youngest on the shelf. Organic is another thing I look for. Ultimately it will come down to what you prefer flavor-wise.
The Best Pasta Sauce Recipe
- Dutch oven
- 6 oz Salted pork, diced ( or about 4 anchovy fillets)
- 2 medium yellow onions, grated
- 24 oz tomato paste
- 5 cloves of garlic minced
- 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley chopped
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- In a large dutch oven add olive oil, and the salted pork or anchovies. Cook the pork until it is rendered down and browned.
- Remove the pork and add in the grated onions and garlic. Cook until light and fragrant, being carful not to brown the garlic or onions. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits from the pork.
- Add in the tomatoe paste, cooking over medium heat until the paste takes on a deeper brick red color.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, and let cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stiring occassionally.