Tomato Sauce – my favorite using canned tomatoes

I have discovered the perfect tomato/pasta sauce. You can leave out the sausage for a delicious vegetarian version, or use another type of meat.  Use just one or all or less or more of the optional ingredients, simmer for as short or long a time as you want, but use this (or Mark Bittman’s original recipe) as your basis for sauce from canned tomatoes and you can’t go wrong.  I used all the optional ingredients but the mushrooms when I took the pictures for this post.  But the last time I made it, I used all but no bell pepper.  And, my first version had no meat and no mushrooms. Each was super. Just have fun with this one!

Note: if using sausage or another sort of meat, be sure to brown it in the same pot you are using to saute the veggies and simmer the sauce.  You don’t want to lose any flavors.

All-purpose tomato sauce

Based on a recipe by Mark Bittman

chili salsa peppers
From the plants that wintered over in our bedroom. Still going strong in March!

Here is my version:

  • 5-6 Italian sausages, sweet, hot, or both. (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (optional if using sausage)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion or 2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 cups lightly packed, give or take)
  • 3 -4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups  (or so) chopped fresh mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 green chili salsa peppers, de-seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 2 red chili salsa peppers, whole – to be removed later. (optional)
  • 2 28 oz can whole tomatoes, liquid reserved (4 cups or so) chopped or broken apart by hand.
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves (optional)
Just one of my "bunch of ingredients" shots. 🙂


If using sausage, heat the 2 T olive oil in pot over medium heat, add the sausages, and brown each side, about 8 minutes total.  Remove from pan, set aside, and cut into pieces before adding back to the sauce.

Brown the sausages at least 4 minutes per side.

Put the 1/4  olive oil in the  pot over medium heat.

Add the 1/4 olive oil to the leftover fat and brown bits from the meat, if using.

When the oil is hot, add the onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes.

Then add garlic and, if using, chili salsa peppers, bell pepper, and/or mushrooms and cook for another few minutes.

All the veggies - no mushrooms in this round.

Next, slice and add the browned sausages or other meat, if using, the tomatoes, and as much liquid as you would like depending on desired thickness and how long you have to simmer the sauce.

Next - the sausage, or other meat, if using

Add sugar and dried herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture comes together and thickens.  The longer, the deeper the flavor!  Although, it still tasted great with a shorter simmer. But, be sure to taste for spiciness as you simmer if using the fresh hot peppers and remove if the fire gets more than you like.

starting to simmer

Once it is at the thickness you want, taste, adjust the seasonings, stir in any fresh herbs, and keep warm. (Or let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to several days; reheat gently before serving.)

Close to being done - time to take out the salsa chili pepper!

I am so pleased with this recipe.  Never mind the vibrant taste with no extra sodium, etc., it makes more the the 24-26 oz that comes in most jars of sauce.  I am sorry, 26 oz is just NOT enough if you want more than a smidgen of leftovers!

Oh, I need to include an apology, here.  I recently used this recipe for a church potluck .  I was careful to chop only one hot pepper and then put only one whole not pepper to simmer in the sauce for a while.  I kept checking the level of heat while simmering and took out what I thought was the ENTIRE hot pepper almost two hours before serving time…Unfortunately, the pepper had split and I had taken out only HALF of that pepper when I deemed the sauce flavorful but safe for a potluck…  Church and cooking friend Marjorie, whom I told about my error, did report that it was hot, but I didn’t see anyone in active distress – I am hoping everyone who tried it liked it hot!

But, next time, the hot peppers will go in cheesecloth for easy and complete retrieval!