Authentic Italian tomato sauces start with ripe Roma tomatoes. Either onion or garlic is part of the recipe, depending on region and personal taste, but not both. Olive oil is used to saute the onion or garlic and makes for a smoother sauce. A small amount of sea salt helps bring out the flavors and offset the sweetness of the ripe tomato. Dried spicy red pepper flake give a hint of piquant. Fresh basil, fresh oregano or fresh rosemary are added right at the end of cooking, again depending of region and personal taste. That is an authentic traditional Italian fresh tomato sauce recipe that can go with any healthy whole food diet.
We are going to go just slightly beyond the traditional borders to make a sauce that is more nutritious and can even do double duty as a soup. A few extra ingredients mellow the acidity of the tomatoes without resorting to added sugar as so many popular recipes do. Slightly altered preparation of the tomatoes produces a much more nutritious final product with the same ingredients.
Start out with 2-3 pounds of the ripest, freshest Roma tomatoes available. Roma tomatoes make better sauce because they are naturally firmer and less juicy than most tomatoes grown to be eaten raw. A traditional Italian recipe would have you blanch the tomatoes in boiling water, remove the skins and remove the stem. For this recipe we are going to simply quarter the whole tomatoes lengthwise. The skins and stem will become part of the sauce. Doing this greatly increases the amount of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds and fiber in the sauce.
This recipe uses one small yellow onion diced into 1/2″ pieces. An equivalent amount of fresh chopped garlic can be substituted for the onion. If you prefer, as I often do, to get the maximum health benefits of the allium vegetables, use onion and garlic both. Saute the onion and/or garlic in a few tablespoons of good quality olive oil in a sauce pan or small stock pot large enough to hold the entire batch of sauce until it just start to turn transparent.
Because I happened to have a couple of small red bell peppers that were a little past their prime, I wanted to include them in this recipe. The peppers are diced to 1/2″ size to match the onion and sauteed at the same time. When the onions are starting to become transparent, the peppers will also be at the right point.
Add red pepper flakes to taste to the onions and continue cooking until transparent. For this recipe I used one large dried Thai chile, crushed into flakes. Traditional Italian sauces do not use black pepper. Adjust the amount of crushed chile to your personal taste. When really ripe tomatoes are available, I like to go light on the pepper to allow the natural sweetness of the tomato to come through.
Continue cooking after adding the pepper flake until the onion is transparent. Add the quartered Roma tomatoes to the pot and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Stir every 10-15 minuted until the tomatoes are fully cooked, usually about 45 minutes to an hour.
Add the fresh herbs to the pot. Continue cooking another five minutes and turn off the heat. Add sea salt to taste.
Put the cooked sauce into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Do this in batches if necessary, depending on the amount of sauce being made. Run the food processor or blender until the sauce is smooth. Return the sauce to the cooking pot, bring back to a very low simmer and taste again for salt. Done!
If the tomatoes are ripe and are not overcooked, the sauce should be a good consistency for coating pasta when it comes out of the food processor. This is also a good sauce for topping meatloaf, making a lasagna casserole or anywhere else you would use a good tomato sauce. Because the skins of the tomatoes and bell peppers are used, this recipe retains all of the nutrition of the whole foods with no added sugar and very little added fat or salt.