Make Ahead

Jammy Tomato-Anchovy Sauce From Phyllis Grant

March 18, 2021
35 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • Makes 2 1/2 cups
Author Notes

As Phyllis Grant writes, "This is not an ordinary, pour-from-the-jar sauce. This is a far more versatile, concentrated sauce base that I love to use in a zillion applications. [Editor's Note: See a few ideas below.] I cook the tomatoes down for several hours, until they reduce by about half, resulting in a jam-like consistency. This is especially satisfying to make in the middle of winter when good tomatoes are nowhere to be found."

Slightly adapted from "Everything Is Under Control: A Memoir with Recipes" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 2020). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Jammy Tomato-Anchovy Sauce From Phyllis Grant
  • 2 28-ounce cans of diced or crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, with their juices
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 5 oil-packed anchovy fillets
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and microplaned
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic reduction, homemade (instructions to follow) or store-bought aged and thick balsamic
  • 1 tablespoon packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons sherry or white wine vinegar
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • A few turns of black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  1. Optional: Make the balsamic vinegar reduction if you don't have thick, aged balsamic on hand. Place 6 tablespoons (or more) of balsamic vinegar in a small pot. Place the pot over high heat until the vinegar boils. Turn the heat down to medium low—just low enough so that the vinegar is simmering. Keep simmering until the vinegar has reduced a bit more than halfway. (It won’t be thickened yet. Don’t worry. It will thicken up as it cools.) Save 2 tablespoons for the sauce and any excess for a topping.
  2. Place all the sauce ingredients in a large pot. Stir. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat as low as possible to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 hours, preferably, until nearly all the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have the consistency of a loose jam or a dense apple-sauce.
  3. Stir every 20 minutes or so to make sure the tomatoes don’t scorch. If the sauce base thickens too quickly or seems to be getting dry, add a bit of olive oil, wine, or water. The longer you let it simmer, the more intense it will taste. Remove the thyme sprigs. Season to taste.
  4. Depending on how chunky a texture you like, purée half or all the sauce with a hand blender or in a food processor.
  5. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Or freeze for up to 6 months.
  6. A few things to do with this jammy goodness:
  7. Dinner for 4: Cook 1 pound of pasta in salted water until al dente. Reserve a large mugful of pasta water. Drain the pasta. Coat the pasta with 1 cup (or more) of Jammy Tomato Anchovy Sauce and as much pasta water as you need to loosen up the sauce and generously coat the noodles (start with 1/2 mug and keep adding). Put the remaining pasta water in a pitcher on the table. Serve this dish with any of the following toppings: pine nuts, chopped parsley, goat cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, balsamic reduction, bread crumbs, coarse salt, capers, or olives.
  8. Lunch for 1: Grill or toast some bread. Rub a peeled garlic clove all over the warm bread (it will disappear into the bread). Spread the bread generously with warm Jammy Tomato Anchovy Sauce. Top with an egg (poached or fried), a splash of olive oil, lemon zest, and coarse salt.
  9. As a base for a pizza: Spread the sauce over pizza dough and then top with slices of mozzarella and anchovy fillets. The moment you take the pizza out of the oven, top with a generous handful of baby arugula, a few splashes of olive oil, balsamic reduction, and toasted pine nuts.
  10. As a condiment: Use on a sandwich instead of chutney or ketchup.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Haifaa Al-Moammar
    Haifaa Al-Moammar
  • Sue and the City
    Sue and the City
  • PK B
    PK B
  • QueenCeleste
  • Sheri
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

34 Reviews

Haifaa A. April 6, 2023
@Kristen, my family loved this sauce, especially my spouse. He kept thanking me for making this sauce. I made it with spaghetti and ground beef. I had run out of dinner ideas and I thought let me make this. Super successful. Thank you for sharing this.
MH October 17, 2021
I appreciate all the prior reviewers comments. I love this sauce. My FOFME ( fear of farmer's market ending) kicked in yesterday and I came home with 10 # of lovely Roma tomatoes and made a huge batch of this recipe to get us through the inevitable tasteless tomato season that descends upon the Midwest. Followed the recipe with the addition of diced red tomatoes and a bit of shredded carrot. The balsamic and anchovies are key to this base sauce. I find it works well with pasta by itself or can be a nice starter for a meat gravy.
Sue A. February 2, 2021
I made this twice now and really love it. I’ve used it for chicken Parmesan and to add to other dishes that use tomato sauces but it really shines best straight on pasta like in my chicken Parmesan that I serve over thin spaghetti with this sauce on top. It is very flavorful and clean. Don’t understand the folks who say it tastes like jarred sauce. I totally disagree, but perhaps my palate is not as sophisticated.
ellenoneilbyrd July 13, 2020
This is my favorite sauce to make right now, especially while working from home. Throw everything into my dutch oven at lunch, and let it simmer till dinner time. Not only is this an easy-peasy recipe to make, it will also fill your home with a delicious smell. This is the dish I use to convert people to love anchovies. When serving, I usually don't tell people there are anchovies in it to add a bit of a surprise. I recommend having a nice red wine with this meal.
ellenoneilbyrd July 13, 2020
This is my favorite sauce to make right now, especially while working from home. Throw everything into my dutch oven at lunch, and let it simmer till dinner time. Not only is this an easy-peasy recipe to make, it will also fill your home with a delicious smell. This is the dish I use to convert people to love anchovies. When serving, I usually don't tell people there are anchovies in it to add a bit of a surprise. I recommend having a nice red wine with this meal.
PK B. July 10, 2020
I enjoyed the video and the interview with Phyllis. The sauce is not what I expected but I like it. It is time consuming to make and much sweeter and acidic than a typical Italian sauce. I made it exactly as directed and I cannot stop tasting it from the pot! Looking forward to trying it on bread and pasta. Also, I read the book and tried the anchovy dressing for avocados which is delicious. I suggest reading the book reviews before you purchase the book which includes a short, brutally honest memoir with recipes in the back.
Donna T. July 6, 2020
Love this sauce on polenta...I like it with creamy, thin polenta and topping with Parmesan.
QueenCeleste June 6, 2020
First, could we PLEASE ban the word jammy unless it is referring to actual jam? It is such a cliche at this point. Second, this is a really great, versatile recipe, it's in my rotation now, despite having such a fussy list of ingredients. And third, it makes a hell of mess when you're cooking it. Definitely get a splatter guard.
jjg11253 April 29, 2020
I made this sauce as directed (except for cutting the amount of EVOO in half) and it was amazingly delicious! It is "jammy": sweet, tart, and thick. The only way I've used it is spreading it on slices of toasted baguette and then sprinkling a bit of goat cheese and fresh basil on top--a great hors d'oeuvre or light lunch that really showcases the sauce's intense flavor. I will definitely be making this again.
Sheri April 11, 2020
This sauce is amazing! I made a huge batch, cooked it all day in my largest Dutch Oven then froze it. Not only is it good with pasta but it makes a great pizza sauce.
Jackie D. March 25, 2020
I will use your recipe, that is, the ingredient list and will make it the opposite way.... quick cooking it in the pan , high heat for fast reduction. I do all my sauces that way and they come out delicious . Aways leave time to rest though before using, 10/15 minutes max.
Burton March 22, 2020
I have very mixed feelings about this sauce. On one hand, it's undeniably tasty. On the other, though, it's really no better than my normal go-to tomato sauce, and it's about twice as complicated, and takes more than three times as long to make. As a result, I just can't recommend this recipe to anyone, even though I enjoyed it. Here are my insights on the components, broken down for ease of comparison:

- Using canned tomatoes, preferably San Marzano: Absolutely a win; I recommend doing this for every tomato sauce you make of this style. Canned tomatoes have more consistency than fresh, unless you have a garden or a good farmer's market, and San Marzano is a very solid brand.
- Red wine and oil-packed anchovies: Also a clear win, and worth doing for basically every tomato sauce of this style you make.
- Three cloves of garlic: This was not nearly enough garlic for a sauce this hardy. I doubled the garlic, and the sauce was still on the very weak side of appropriately seasoned. For a sauce cooked this long, with as robust flavors as this one has, use way more garlic than this recipe is suggesting. Also, forget the microplane – just mince it like usual. You get nothing from microplaning it in a sauce that cookes this long.
- Using a balsamic reduction: This is an absolute waste. You taste *none* of the complexities of a good balsamic reduction in the finished sauce, and making a balsamic reduction is such a pain that I have no idea why you'd bother doing it for a dish you can't even taste the result in. It is absolutely worth adding a little balsamic vinegar, but just add a dash of straight balsamic to the simmering sauce, and leave out the white wine vingear in exchange. The brown sugar is this recipe provides the caramel flavor that the reduction could have provided anyway. And speaking of which...
Brown sugar: Absolutely do include this. Using a little bit of sugar (or a carrot) to take the edge off of canned tomatoes is an old and well-known trick, but the little bit of molasses-y flavor that brown sugar brings to the equation makes it a worthwhile substitute for white sugar, especially since it doesn't add any prep time at all to make the switch.
- Lemon zest: This is worthwhile, but not deal-breaking if you don't have it. The lemon zest does help to brighten up the sauce, but it does so quite subtly – I'm not really sure if the result is worth getting out a microplane for. If you have dried lemon zest (available in the spice isle), this is a good addition, and since I regularly keep dried lemon zest in my spice cabinet, this is an addition that I myself will be making to future sauces.
- Sprigs of fresh thyme: Fresh thyme is absolutely wasted in a sauce that cooks this long. Use dried – it's cheaper, and you will taste absolutely no difference. As a general rule of thumb, three hours is way too long for any fresh spice besides bay laurel; save yourself both money and hassle, and sticked to dried.
- And finally, the big one, the three hour long cooking time: I'm sorry, but it's just plain not worth it. Instead of slaving away at this for three hours (I don't consider any recipe to be "set it and forget it" if you need to stir regularly to keep in from burning), just follow these simple steps: 1) cook the garlic in the oil for a bare minute or less before you add the tomatoes to the pot, so that the garlic loses its sting, 2) add everything else, including the wine, and bring the sauce to a brisk simmer, 3) simmer the sauce on a reasonably high temperature for only about five minutes before your pasta goes into the boiling water, 4) when your pasta is about halfway done, add a full 6 oz can of tomato paste. A pasta sauce that way is honestly indistinguishable from this one, and it's ready in less than 30 minutes, instead of in three full hours.

Some of the ingredient insights of this sauce are solid, but save yourself the trouble, and make another recipe. You won't regret it.
Burton March 22, 2020
(Slight correction to the above – for two cans of diced tomatoes, you'd probably need to cans of tomato paste. But also, I think using a single can of diced tomatoes and the same proportion of everything else is probably the way to go; as mentioned above, this sauce could use a higher concentration of seasoning)
Florence C. March 19, 2020
No where does the recipe mention using a slow cooker. A slow cooker will not reduce the sauce. The point of the recipe is to reduce the sauce hence the name “Jammy”.
Keith S. March 21, 2020
I agree. The sauce produced here is lovely, but not better made in a slow cooker...and stirring every 20min., while well-advised, seems to defeat the convenience a slow cooker generally exists to offer
Sharleen T. March 8, 2020
Just made this, and it looks great, cooked it in the slow cooker for 3 hours then switched to a pan for about an hour, perfect. Just added a little more salt and Italian seasoning.
LL March 3, 2020
This is really delicious. I used tomatoes that I canned myself, and didn't find the finished product too sweet. I am surprised at the negative comments, but I guess different people have different tastes. I am definitely adding this to my favourites and our regular dinner rotation.
peggyg March 2, 2020
Just made this in the slow cooker. 8 hours on low, then ~45 minutes on high without the lid. Tasted when I uncovered it - not the "jammy" consistency, and a definite metallic taste. So...more brown sugar + garlic salt, dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, a little more pepper flakes...pretty good. The ease of just throwing everything in allows for a little imperfection in the taste. Don't criticize it and call it "inauthentic" and "awful" - just adjust the seasonings to your liking.
I used whole San Marzanos and crushed them by hand, double the garlic and maybe not the best red wine - it was a little old (left by guests) and kept in refig for awhile. I don't think the sherry vinegar is necessary, but if it turns out too acidic, the extra brown sugar works the magic to bring it back. I know some don't like to add sugar, but I have no fear of sugar, especially brown - love the taste.
I think when I reheat the rest, I will let it reduce a bit and try to get the "jammy -ness".
Fidelma March 2, 2020
Wow, this turned out extremely well. Love the smoky spicy kick. I only had 1 28 can of tomatoes so I sort of halved the ingredients. Let's hope I can duplicate it.
Oh I added capers
nbartell February 29, 2020
Really disappointed.
nbartell February 29, 2020
Spoiler alert: I'm speaking as an Italian here. This sauce is far from being authentic. It's totally bland. I would have to tweak this so much to have it ever match up to any authentic Italian sauce. No flavors stand out at all. It's about the same as what you can buy in a jar.
PF February 29, 2020
No one ever said it was "authentic" anything. Just accept it on its merits, since you apparently didn't try to make it.
Marie R. March 1, 2020
It was absolutley awful - just tried again, it ruined my perfect soft boiled eggs. And it's pretty obvious that nbartell did try it, because he/she perfectly describes it as tasting like jarred sauce, if I might add the worst jarred sauce ever.
Burton March 22, 2020
THANK YOU. I doubled the garlic when I made this, and it was still on the absolute weak end of what I'd ordinarily make for myself
Marie R. February 24, 2020
Well, I was so excited to try this after the glowing write up and reviews that I was DREAMING about it, literally!! I don’t know what went wrong, but not only not impressed, I basically hate this sauce! It is just sweet, sweet, sweet!! To use it I fry some hot peppers and then douse with red pepper flakes to fight off the sweetness. I’m going to try it again, after reading these reviews, but will reduce amount of balsamic and eliminate any sugar. It will be a while though until I’ll be in the “mood” for this sauce again. Wish I liked it!!