Tomato sauces captured by Donna Turner Ruhlman

A basic tomato sauce is easy and delicious on its own and an elegant cooking tool as well. Braise beef, pork or lamb in it, add it to ground meat for a pasta sauce, poach eggs in it. It’s delicious plain. I returned from New York on Friday and saw a 24-ounce jar of a “celebrity chef” sauce on the counter. Donna said, “It’s really good.”  Then added, “But it cost nine dollars.” Make your own—50% more sauce, 50% of the cost, 100% more pleasure.

The above photo shows the difference between a tomato sauce cooked raw, top, and a tomato sauce made by sauteing the tomatoes before pureeing and cooking them.  Both work fine. The fresh sauce tastes fresh and raw, the sauce made with cooked tomatoes has more depth and complexity. If you have the time, saute halved tomatoes, or better, broil them before pureeing.  When using canned tomatoes, and I use canned all winter long, there’s no need to cook them ahead of time; I often puree them right in the can with a hand blender. (For canned, I try to use Muir Glen or tomatoes from San Marzano, but if there’s a sale on more commercial brands, I buy that.)

Make a double batch on a Sunday, use half for pasta that night, use the other half to braise a pot roast or lamb shanks on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes or 2 pounds Roma tomatoes
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced or sliced, sauteed in a little butter till softened
  • four-fingered pinch kosher salt, or more to taste


  • 1 bunch fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon good quality dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  1. Put the tomatoes, sauteed onion and salt in a blender and puree until the tomatoes are smooth, 30 seconds or so (you can roast or saute fresh tomatoes before hand if you wish).
  2. Pour the tomatoes into a medium sauce pan, add any optional ingredients you want to use and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Yield: 3 to 4 cups of sauce.

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© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.