in the kitchen // secret pasta sauce

Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good. — Alice May Brock


Okay, so this recipe is not really a secret, but I’m giving it that title in the tradition of pasta sauces as the culinary equivalent of precious family heirlooms. Because I find that we eat pasta a little more often than we should, I sometimes offset my laziness by making homemade pasta sauce. I started out using a recipe from The Complete Tassajara Cookbook, but I’ve made several adjustments that bypass some of the more laborious steps (such as dicing whole canned tomatoes — why not just buy ones that are already diced?). I’ve also tweaked the seasoning to suit my family’s taste, and you should feel free to do the same with my recipe. The beauty of this type of recipe is that it is so flexible. You could make it with 100% organic ingredients, you could use fresh herbs, you could blend only some of it for a chunkier style sauce. Be creative! Someday I’d love to develop a recipe for a vodka/cream sauce (my husband’s favorite). If I’m successful, I will be sure to post the results.


1 large onion, diced
Two 15 oz. or one 28 oz. jar of diced tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning (I use McCormick)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
red pepper, salt, black pepper to taste


You can make this sauce in either a large pot or in a large skillet, it’s up to you. Saute the onion in some olive oil until soft (usually about 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute. Try not to burn the garlic (I always do). Add the tomatoes and their juice, along with all of the spices. Heat for about 10 minutes (covered, so it doesn’t splatter). Let it cool for a minute or two and then blend it. I use an immersion blender because immersion blenders are probably the greatest kitchen appliance of all time. I don’t know how or why anyone would cook without one. However, if you don’t have one, you can certainly blend your sauce in a regular blender.

I like to put my pasta directly into the sauce and stir it all up so that every piece is deliciously coated with tomato-ey goodness. Penne works great for this. You could also just pour it on top. You know what you like best. Mangia mangia!

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Kelli Ann Wilson

Kelli lives in rural New Hampshire with her husband Damian and their two children. She works as a writer, and in her free time enjoys reading, gardening, taking pictures, walking in the woods, and celebrating the seasons of nature and the feasts, festivals, and holy days of the Christian year.

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  1. February 7, 2013 / 9:58 pm

    That sounds really good! I love Italian food…and Mexican food…and Chinese food…ha ha But really, I do love Italian food and that sounds like a great recipe. 🙂

  2. February 8, 2013 / 7:48 am

    Yes, preparing meals (and eating them) would be fairly dull without the flavors of the world. My own ancestral food (English/Irish/Scottish) is pretty bland, and heavy on the meat…though I do enjoy a good jacket potato! I’d love to hear how the recipe comes out if you make it.

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