tomato basil sauce

Growing up in an Italian family assured that at least once a week there was a simmering pot of tomato sauce on the stove top.  When my mother was not looking, we used to love to take bread and dip it into the cooking sauce.  My mother also has fond childhood memories of her grandmother buttering a piece of fresh bread, scooping a bit of cooking tomato sauce onto it, and serving as a special treat to her before dinner.  

Fresh tomato sauce not only creates wonderful memories but is a good friend to many dishes- any type or shape of pasta, varieties of white fish or chicken, or just poured over vegetable such as green beans for some added flavor.  

This sauce is quite simple and is made with fresh cherry or baby tomatoes- I like to mini San Marzano Plum tomatoes but get what is the freshest or easiest.  My favorite version of the recipe creates a lumpy sauce where the tomatoes keep much of their shape and texture. 

However, the recipe can be adapted with canned tomatoes, or in Italian “polpa”, if you do not have fresh tomatoes.  If you like a sauce with a smoother texture, simmer for about an hour longer.  When finished, take a hand blender or food processor and whiz into your desired consistency.


2 pounds mini plum or cherry tomatoes

6 cloves of garlic

The tomato was believed to be brought to Europe by Hernan Cortes from the new world in the 16th century.  In 1544 it was named the 'golden apple' or 'pomo d'oro' because it was yellow in color.  In Italy up until the late 17th century the tomato was used for a decorative ornament, along with a science project as Italian botanists created new shapes and colors, but did not recommend it being consumed.  

olive oil


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1 tablespoon butter (optional)

4 fresh basil leaves 


1.      Cut the tomatoes onto halves.  Set aside

2.     Finely mince the garlic cloves and put in small bowl.

3.  Cover bottom of a medium sauce pan with 2 good lugs of olive oil and place over medium heat.

4.     Add tomatoes and cook until begin to soften, should be about 4 minutes.

5.     Put garlic into pan with tomatoes, two good pinches of salt and mix well.

6.     Lower heat to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7.      Add salt to taste if appropriate, and few whole basil leaves.

8.     Simmer for another 20 minutes.

9.     For extra flavor, my mother and grandmother's trick was to finish off with a tablespoon of butter.

time. prep 15 minutes, cooking 4o minutes

level.  easy

serves. 6 people as a light pasta sauce


If your tomatoes are not sweet, you can add a teaspoon of sugar to cut some of the natural acid.

It is best to use a serrated nice to cut tomatoes. Peak tomato season is mid July to September


Other ideas

For a richer sauce, use  2 cans of tomatoes, follow recipe above but add the rind of parmesan cheese and cook for almost 2 hours, mixing often and salting to taste.