This simple tomato basil sauce recipe is a traditional easy to make sauce that can be served with pasta dishes or used as a base for pizza, meat or seafood sauces or dishes like lasagna. This post is contributed by Lucas Delmas.
My grandmother’s tomato sauce
There are memories from childhood we keep for the rest of our lives, and that we go back to because they brought us joy. One of them relates to “Mimi’s tomatoes”. During my youth, I spent time with my grandparents in the French region of Vendée. This region, near the Atlantic ocean, brought together the scents from marine air with those from fresh garden tomatoes, and fresh basil which I found when entering the house kitchen, as this recipe was in the making.
My grandparents didn’t buy these tomatoes at the shop. One of their friends, Mimi, was always supplying them with these delicious ingredients. She spent her life in her garden, cultivating fruits and vegetables.Jump to Recipe
These tomatoes were of various shapes, sometimes surprising also by their various colors. As a kid, I was used tomatoes which all look the same by their form, and with a unified red color. But when you have a garden and you take seeds from one plant variety and others, and you let nature do its works, you realize that this is what natural tomatoes really look like.
My grandmother explained this to me, and with time I got to realize that she was right. During the day my grandparents would take me by the ocean, and by the time we got home, Mimi had delivered us a box of her amazing fresh tomatoes by the front door.
The ingredients and flavors of homemade cooking
What about then, cooking these tomatoes in a variety of dishes? What about putting these tomatoes in a pan with a little bit of olive oil and garlic, and pair the result with your favorite dishes? This tomato basil sauce will make your rice, pastas, meat and fish so flavorful. I would recommend you think about the best tomatoes you can obtain to make this recipe. What are your favorite ones?
As far as basil, it is important to find it fresh, instead of dried. From these two main ingredients, we have onions, garlic, and olive oil – maybe a little bit of sugar if the tomatoes are particularly acidic and lacking sweetness. Finally, consider some optional add-ins: sprinkling some Parmigiano Regiano cheese, to make the sauce thicker. One of my favorite add-ins is crushed olives or olive tapenade, to give a more Mediterranean flavor.
While I can’t find Mimi’s tomatoes anymore – these times do not return – I love to go back to the place in Vendée during the summer. I walk around this house where we spent so many great vacations. I see new tomatoes there, and they are in a way the return of those from this same region.
Tomato basil sauce
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil can also use butter
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed add more if you're a garlic lover
- 2 lbs fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced – or 28 ounces of canned tomatoes, can be whole, diced or crushed
- 1 tbsp sugar optional
- Fresh basil to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil or butter in a medium sized sauce pan.
- Add the diced onion and crushed garlic, cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and bring to the sauce to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and add the basil – some can be chopped, but you can also add the stalks (they add flavor) and remove the stalks when the sauce is done. Add the sugar if using, you can also add the salt and pepper.
- Cook the sauce over low heat for at least 30 minutes. Stir the sauce frequently with a wooden spoon and use the spoon to press and help breakdown the chunky tomato pieces.
- For a smoother sauce you can use a hand held blender to break down the tomatoes if using whole or diced tomatoes. If you let the sauce cook for longer the tomatoes will naturally break down, or if you prefer a more chunky consistency you can skip the blender step.
- Once the consistency suits your preference, the sauce is done and ready to use. For an extra taste of freshness you can add some freshly chopped basil when serving the sauce.