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Best of the Hotline: How to Make Tomato Sauce from Canned Tomatoes

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Some questions on the Hotline have staying power, and for good reason -- they cover the questions we ask ourselves time and time again. Join us as we revisit some of the most popular.

Today: The best ways to make tomato sauce from canned tomatoes, because we're still waiting for the heirlooms to make their debut at the market.

Best of the Hotline: How to Make Tomato Sauce from Canned Tomatoes

When we’re too tired to come up with an elaborate meal, and the fridge is looking bare, we often turn to pasta -- you have a box lurking in your pantry right now, don't you? Perfectly sauced pasta makes for a relatively quick and easy meal, yet feels more complete than other scavanged dinners. (Merrill, we're looking at you and your "dinner" of cheese and crackers.) In the peak of summer, we smother our pasta with batch after batch of Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter made with fresh tomatoes, and then we keep eating it all week long. But just because tomato season isn’t in full swing yet doesn’t mean that you should resign yourself to a mediocre jarred version. Cris wanted to know how to make spaghetti sauce from canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, so the community noodled around and came up with answers:

Step by Step

  • Kellysm99 reminds us that Marcella’s tomato sauce works just as well with canned tomatoes as it does fresh, exclaiming: “This is so delicious you can eat it straight out of the pot with a spoon,” and suggests serving the onion as a side dish sprinkled with coarse salt.
  • Sam1148 offers a basic option: “Warm the tomato sauce, add a touch of garlic, some oregano and thyme (or Italian seasonings), and a pinch of sugar, and let it simmer about 30 minutes,” as well as a more involved meat sauce: “Brown some ground beef with some onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Then add spices, garlic, tomato sauce, and optionally, a touch of sugar.”
  • GIOVANNI50 claims: "It is simpler than all of the above. If you have crushed tomatoes, or passata, just put the amount you wish in a pan and let it reduce for 20 minutes on medium to high heat. Sure you can start with garlic and onions, but a simple tomato sauce (with perhaps a bit of oregano and salt and pepper) works for me every time," adding, "San Marzano tomatoes are the best of course."
  • Cookinginvictoria suggests following her guide to making any marinara sauce in 5 steps and 20 minutes.  

Best of the Hotline: How to Make Tomato Sauce from Canned Tomatoes

Quick Tips

  • Amydonovan likes the addition of white wine or vermouth.
  • SKK shares troubleshooting tips: "If it is too thick, thin with chicken stock. If it is too thin, let the sauce cook down." 
  • Referencing roots in Naples, Italy, Cannizzo recommends staying true to Italian methods -- steer clear of the stock and add water instead if the sauce becomes too thick.
  • Fhp suggests crushing some fresh basil and adding it to the tomato sauce when you turn off the heat: “Cover and let the fresh basil permeate the sauce. Remove basil before serving,” and seconds the recommendation of using San Marzano tomatoes.

Tell us: How do you make tomato sauce?

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: Community, Advice, DIY Food, How-To & Diy, Hotline, Best Question