I share this recipe each winter because it is great comfort food. I spend many of my Sunday afternoons in the winter months happily cooking my favorite meals and for many of those dinners a good homemade red sauce is required. While you can use your favorite jarred sauce with this recipe, I do think this tastes best with whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes.
Cooking time can vary and as a general rule cooking longer over lower heat is better than shorter over higher heat but the reality is you can pull together a decent red sauce in about 45 minutes (including prep time). However, this tastes best when cooked, allowed to cool on the stove top and then refrigerated overnight, which is why I often make a red sauce on the weekend with the intention to use it later that week.
As a general rule, I add to my sauce a minced onion, several cloves of roasted garlic (also minced), an Italian sausage (I tend to buy the sausage meat out of the casing) and a carrot and roasted red bell pepper (both of which I puree). For seasonings I use chopped parsley (the more the better), red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, bay leaves and dried Italian seasonings.
Cooking Instructions: Start by adding a bit of olive oil in a pan on medium high heat. Make your sauce a little spicier by adding red pepper flakes with the oil before the pan is hot. Sautée a minced onion until they soften then reduce the heat to medium or medium low to avoid burning the food. Next, add Italian sausage (take it out of the casing or buy it that way) and minced garlic (I prefer to use roasted garlic). After these combine for 2-3 minutes, you can add the tomato sauce, a bit of tomato paste, a couple bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste and Italian seasonings.
Next puree the roasted red pepper and carrot and stir it into the sauce so everything combines. The roasted pepper will bring a lot of flavor to the sauce, while the carrot acts as a natural sweetner cutting the acidity. It can be substituted with a tablespoon of sugar.
Lastly, cover the sauce pan and lower the heat so the sauce will lightly simmer and let it cook for ~30 minutes, stirring occassionally. Add a cup of freshly chopped parsley in the final 4-5 minutes. If you add it too early the taste is muted but if added in the final minutes they soften and pack more flavor.
Cooking Tips: If the sauce becomes too thick add chicken stock / or water. Add a dash of red wine and stir to deepen the coloring then drizzle olive oil and fresh ground black pepper atop the sauce. If you want to go all out add a table spoon or two of ricotta cheese when serving.