Recipe for Marta’s Simple Tomato Sauce

In my recent blog about my Tuscan cooking class with Mamma Laura, I mentioned that a few years back, her daughter Marta had taught us how to make the best tomato sauce I’ve ever tasted. This versatile, explosively flavorful sauce — which is fantastic with all kinds of pasta, or can elevate just about any dish — immediately became a go-to recipe for my extended family. We call it “Marta’s simple tomato sauce.” (That’s “simple” in the best possible sense: easy, unfussy, and delicious.) And now, by popular demand, I’m sharing the recipe with you:


Ingredients: Ample extra virgin olive oil, 6 cloves garlic, 2 large cans of whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano are best; in season you can use fresh cherry or Roma tomatoes), 1 cup of water; salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes to taste


Procedure: Use a pan with as big a surface area as possible. Pour in lots and lots of olive oil (about 1/2″ in the bottom of the pan). Don’t be shy…when you think you’ve used too much oil, add some more. Drop in the garlic and heat it at high temperature until oil begins to bubble, then turn to low. Add tomatoes and water, a small handful of salt, a pinch or two of sugar, and red pepper flakes to taste. Turn heat back to high, allowing it to sizzle and bubble, and cover it to reduce spattering. (There will be spattering.) Boil for about 10-15 minutes, until it gets “creamy” around the edges. Stir frequently, and have fun crushing the tomatoes with a big wooden spoon. (If using fresh tomatoes, cook for 30 minutes and don’t add water.) When it’s done cooking, remove the three biggest garlic cloves and puree the sauce with a hand mixer (or transfer to a food processor or blender).



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