Looking for an easy, timeless, and delicious Tuscan tomato sauce recipe? Look no further.
Tuscany is synonymous with great food. And I’ve been fortunate to have taken a variety of cooking classes there — from hanging out in the kitchen of a Michelin-star chef, to joining Mamma Laura in her home kitchen, to hand-rolling pasta at my favorite agriturismo.
I’ve brought home several of these recipes, but my favorite culinary souvenir is this simple tomato sauce. My wife and I joined Chef Marta (the daughter of Mamma Laura) in her restaurant kitchen, where she 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.)
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); a bit of water as needed; salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes to taste. Serves about 8; the sauce freezes very well. (We usually eat half right away, and stick the rest in our freezer for later.)
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 the tomatoes, a small handful of salt, a pinch or two of sugar, and red pepper flakes to taste.
Turn the 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.) If it’s thicker than you’d like, you can add some water partway through the simmer (a half-cup to a cup).
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).
For lots more on Italy’s heartland, check out my series with 12 Tips on How to Experience the Best of Tuscany.