Sicilian-Style Tomato Sauce

This is my go-to tomato sauce I use in many preparations. I love it in lasagna or simply as a quick and easy pasta sauce. I suggest using the freshest tomatoes you can acquire for this sauce, and do not cook them long – you want to preserve the fresh tomato flavor.

I adore the addition of cinnamon in this sauce; I think it makes all the difference. It also speaks to my North African roots and I like that. But most of all, I think the cinnamon blends nicely with tomatoes and creates a pleasant softness hovering in the background.

I like making a double or triple batch of this sauce and jar the leftovers. It is very nice to have on hand during those evenings that I feel a bit stuck in what to make.

Difficulty: simple
Yield:  about 4 servings

  • 1 medium onion, chopped into medium dice

  • extra virgin olive oil, to taste

  • 2 garlic cloves, whole

  • 2 fresh bay leaves

  • 1 whole cinnamon stick

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 500 grams (1 pound) sicilian tomatoes (or very flavorful red tomatoes)

  • 40 grams (1 ½ ounces) tomato paste

  • 120 ml. (1/2-cup) white wine

  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

  • ground cayenne pepper and ground paprika to taste

  • sea salt and black pepper to taste

  • Heat a wide pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Stir well, and allow the onions to slowly stew in their juices until they are completely soft – this will take 8-10 minutes, so be patient. Add 1-2 tablespoons water as need to prevent the onions from caramelizing. Add about 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil to the pan with 1 tablespoon water. Add the garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and ground cinnamon.  Heat just long enough to warm the onions, garlic and spices.
  • Purée the tomatoes in a blender and add them to the pot (I usually don’t bother straining the seeds or skin out of the tomatoes for this rustic sauce).
  • Mix the tomato paste with the white wine, then add this mixture to the tomatoes with the chopped parsley. Add the paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Stir well to combine.
  • Cook the sauce over moderate heat for no more than 30 minutes. This is important because you don’t want the tomatoes to change character and take on a cooked tomato taste…remember, this is a fresh tomato sauce.
  • Adjust the seasoning then add a bit of extra virgin olive oil if you like. Enjoy right away or cool completely and refrigerate. Reheat gently over medium heat after refrigerating.

Jack’s Fresh Tip

You can make this sauce oil-free. Eliminate the oil after softening the onions. Lightly crush the garlic to release the flavor into 1-2 tablespoons of water. Proceed as normal and don’t add any more oil at the end of the cooking.

Consider making a double or triple recipe and simply can the leftovers. Place the sauce in hot sanitized jars (put the jars in a 140° C oven for 20 minutes) and seal immediately.

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