Okay, Food52 community, I have some questions about cooking a tomato sauce, with potential additives. Thoughts/comments are welcomed!

My questions are as follows:

Assume that I am making Marcella Hazen's tomato sauce with onion and butter, but I want to add some ingredients: herbs, vegetables, and/or meat.

(1) At what point in the cooking process do I add the herbs, early or late? (I am specifically thinking of basil, maybe oregano or marjoram.) Would the answer be different if the herbs are fresh as opposed to dried? Would the answer be different if I am adding herbs only, or herbs +/- vegetables +/- meat?

(2) If I wanted to add vegetables (I am specifically thinking of mushrooms but could include carrots and/or bell peppers), at what point in the cooking process do I add them, early or late? Does it matter whether I am adding herbs +/- meat? Do the vegetables need to be sauteed or roasted prior to adding them, or can/should they be added raw?

(3) If I wanted to add meat (specifically ground beef/hamburger), at what point in the process should I add the cooked and drained meat, early or late? Does it matter whether I am adding herbs +/- vegetables?

I am trying to understand, from a broader perspective, how all these things might interact with the tomato sauce and each other. Any explanations that might be useful in support of your answers would be gratefully received.

Thanks in advance for any help that you can provide.

  • Posted by: gandalf
  • March 5, 2020


Miss_Karen March 17, 2020
Hello Gandalf,
Generally speaking I would start with sauteeing onions, carrots etc first. Then add the tomatoes.
The meat should be browned & drained of fat before stirring into the veggies. Dried herbs in with onions etc at the beginning. Fresh herbs last.
gandalf March 17, 2020
Thank you!
Emma L. March 5, 2020
Hi Gandalf! Because it has so few ingredients, there are lots of ways to vary this recipe. We wrote a piece about the community's favorite variations here: https://food52.com/blog/24160-marcella-hazan-tomato-sauce-variations. I like to add fresh herbs on top of tomato sauce, versus stirring it in; if you're using dried, you can add them from the start. I would sauté vegetables to start, then add the tomatoes to that pot. And I would also brown the beef to start, then add the tomatoes to that pot.
gandalf March 5, 2020

Just so I understand, when you state "add the tomatoes to that pot" for both the sauteed vegetables and the browned beef, do you mean the tomatoes plus onion plus butter before the sauce has been made, and then cook for 45 minutes to finish the sauce; or do you mean add the finished tomato sauce to the already sauteed vegetables/browned meat? If the latter, how long do you cook, or is it ready to go once you stir it around and mix it together? (I hope that my question is not too confusing.)
Nancy March 5, 2020
Gandalf, there are traditions in Italian cooking for tomato sauces with vegetables or vegetables and meat.
Rather than rewrite those here, I want to refer you to two good sources as a start (there are others):
• Giovanni Bugialli tomato sauce recipe;
• Egullet.org discussion on Bolognese sauce and ragu, with references to similarities, differences, other authors and recipes.
gandalf March 5, 2020
Thanks for the great references!
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