Pasta Sauce

Pasta Sauce
Pasta Sauce Header

Ragu style Pasta Sauce simmered for 2 hours or more to develop the concentrated flavors for your favorite Pasta dishes. Made from Tomatoes & Juice, Soffritto, Tomato Paste, with a nice blend of Herbs & Spices and a lot of Basil. Resulting in a Delicious Sauce as Smooth or Chunky as desired.

The process is really simple. But there is a lot to talk about. In short; Sauté the Vegetables, add your choice of Proteins, then the Sauce & Seasoning. Simmer low and slow, partially covered for 2 hours. Adjust the Seasoning and add in Fresh Basil. Use it for all types of Pasta Dishes.

Tomatoes

There are all kinds of Tomato products that can be used for Pasta Sauce. Fresh Tomatoes with the skin and seeds removed to make Passata produce the best Pasta Sauce.

Peeling the Skin off and discarding the seeds in Tomatoes removes Lectin which makes the Tomatoes easier for digestion. Apparently, the Tomato Skin & Seeds contain the highest amounts. Lectin is associated with inflammation and is the reason why peeling the Tomatoes and discarding the Seeds is done. A secondary benefit is that it results in a smooth Sauce.

Passata

Passata is Tomato Juice with Pulp, made from San Marzano or Roma Tomatoes. Seasoned with Salt and often a Basil Leaf in homemade versions for Basil Passata. This is the basic Tomato Sauce used in various Italian Sauces.

Very popular is the Mutti Brand of Passata, made up of 99.5 % Tomatoes and .5 % Salt.

Mutti Passata
Mutti Passata
Passata with Seasoning

Passata Sauce

Five Cups of Passata or about 2 bottles (2×680 ml). Placed into a Bowl with the Seasoning before simmering.

This replaces the 3 C of Crushed Tomatoes & 2 Cups of Tomato Juice. Either one can be used.

Passata Substitute

I find that the combination of canned Crushed Tomatoes & Tomato Juice to be a very good substitute for Passata. Although the balance of flavors, particularly the Acidity & Sweetness comes from San Marzano or Roma Tomatoes pureed into Passata. There really is a difference between varieties of Tomatoes and what they offer for flavor. Even across different brands of Passata.

This is the reason why you see adjustments to Pasta Sauce with Vinegar or Sugar to adjust the Acidity. San Marzano Tomatoes typically have a PH level of 4.2 – 4.5. They have a balanced Sweet & Acidic flavor. These components will often need to be adjusted when substituting Passata.

Passata Substitute

Passata Substitute

Combine the below ingredients

  • 3 Cups Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 Cups Tomato Juice
  • Add a few Tomato Leaves if you can to get those fresh Tomato aromas you find in Passata

Pasta Sauce with Crushed Tomatoes

Substitute Passata by combining 2 Cups of Tomato Juice with 3 Cups or about 1×28 oz. can of Crushed Tomatoes. This is an excellent substitute, but is slightly on the thicker side.

The water content of the Tomatoes you use is directly related to the simmer time. Simmer for about 2 hours. Which is pretty spot on with the 2 cups of water to get the correct consistency.

Fresh Pasta Sauce

Crushed Tomato Pasta Sauce

Made with a Passata substitute using 3 Cups of Crushed Tomatoes, 2 Cups of Tomato Juice, 2 Cups of Water and Seasoning.

Tomato Paste

Used here for another layer of Tomato Flavors, Thickening, Color and is quite common to add for Pasta Meat Sauces, Bolognese or Ragu.

Add the Tomato Paste after sautéing the Soffritto and cook for a couple of minutes.

Tomato Paste

Tomato Paste

Use a good quality Double or Triple Concentrated Tomato Paste. Any leftover Tomato Paste can be portioned into Ziploc bags and frozen for long term storage.

Pasta Sauce Vegetables

Soffritto is the base for various Italian based Sauces and is a mix of Onions, Carrots and Celery, the same as the French Mirepoix. Cooked in 1 part of Extra Virgin Olive Oil or more.

Optionally replace Celery with Half Celery & Fennel Bulb, Carrots with Bell Peppers. Garlic can be included or omitted. Onions & Celery can be diced. While Carrots can be diced or shredded and then chopped.

Soffritto with Garlic

Soffritto

A mix of 2 parts Onion, 1 part Carrot & Celery with or without Garlic.

Typically small diced but can be diced medium to large depending on how chunky you want the final sauce. It can also be pureed for a smooth sauce.

How to cook Soffritto

It all starts with the Soffritto as the base flavoring for the Pasta Sauce. Which is cooked in 1 part Extra Virgin Olive Oil over medium low heat for about 10 minutes.

Some will go much longer up to 45 minutes. It is important that you do not brown the vegetables. The Soffritto is cooked with Tomato paste added and cooked again when the meat is added. So 10 minutes or until softened is good.

Sauté Soffritto

Sautéed Soffritto

  • 1 Cup Diced Onion
  • 1/2 C Diced Celery
  • 1/2 C Shredded Carrots and then chopped
  • 1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Soffritto with Tomato Paste

Soffritto with Tomato Paste

After about 10 minutes of cooking on medium low heat, Tomato Paste is added and cooked for 1 – 2 minutes with the heat turned up to medium.

Vegetables used in Pasta Sauce

The Soffritto establishes the base flavoring in the Pasta Sauce. Other Vegetables can be added.

  • Shallots or Green Onions
  • Peppers (Bell Peppers, Roasted Peppers, Pimento Paste, small amounts of Hot Peppers)
  • Mushrooms
  • Fennel Bulb
  • Leek

How the Vegetables are prepared will depend on if you are after a Sauce that is Smooth, Chunky or Fine.

Pasta Sauce with Rendered Fat

Add the addition of Rendered Fat in combination with Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a Pasta Meat Sauce. Rendered Fat will really up the flavor profile into a Meaty Pasta Sauce.

Whenever I can, I trim the fat off a large piece of meat like a Pork Chop or Steak. Render the fat out and then sear the meat. The meat gets set aside to add to the sauce to simmer for 2 hours. When about 30 minutes of cook time remain. I take the meat out and mince it to add back to the Sauce. In the below image I had a small section of Pork Loin that I used, about 1/2 a lb.

Seared Pork Loin

Rendered Fat & Seared Meat

Optionally the Soffritto can be the second stage of cooking. If you choose to render some fat out and sear a large piece of meat first. Then set the meat aside and start the Soffritto.

The large piece of meat will be added to the Pasta Sauce before it is simmered for 2 hours or longer.

Minced Meat

Minced Meat

Once the large piece of meat has simmered and is very soft. Remove it to mince and add back into the Pasta Sauce to continue to simmer.

The Fat is very important in a Pasta Sauce. It blends the Flavors from the Vegetables & Seasoning with the Tomatoes while adding its own flavors and mouthfeel. EVOO has an earthly flavor that you definitely want in Pasta Sauce.

Additional Fat will come from the ground Beef and Sausages you use as the meat filling. Trimming the fat from a Pork Chop or Steak and rendering it out is going to give that little extra to the Sauce.

Some will add Butter to the Sauce. Which is also very nice and will round out the flavors more.

How to remove fat from pasta sauce

To degrease or remove excess Fat from the Sauce, scoop it off with a spoon or crumple up some paper towel and hold it with a pair of tongs. Gently dab the top to pick up the grease and remove it from the Sauce.

Sometimes you will end up with too much Fat in the Pasta Sauce. Either from the type of meat you use or rendering out too much Fat.

While you do want a good amount of Fat, it should be able to be mixed in and absorbed by the Sauce. During the simmer you will see it settle at the top, around the edges. Which is fine as long as it will be absorbed back into the Sauce when mixing. If you find the Sauce can not absorb the Oil, then you probably have too much. At which point you should remove some of the oil.

Pasta Sauce Seasoning

Here is where things can get interesting, switching up the seasoning with those Herbs & Spices you like best in a Pasta Sauce. Any Sausages or Flavored Meats you add will also contribute to flavoring the Sauce.

Ensure that the Tomato Sauce has some SASS (Salt, Acidity, Sweetness, Spiciness). Spiciness can come from Black Pepper, Chili Flakes or other Heat source to taste so that it has just the right amount of kick. Not Spicy or even noticeable, just enough to elevate the flavors a bit.

For me I like a Pasta Sauce that is Acidic & Sweet with a touch of heat, you may not. In that case adjust these components to suit your taste.

After that, it’s all about additional Herbs & Spices you might want to include with your Pasta Sauce. With the most common one being Italian Seasoning.

Italian Seasoning

Italian Seasoning is the go to Seasoning for Pasta Sauce. This can be added instead of the Herbs & Spices in the main recipe or certain Herbs & Spices within the Italian Seasoning added individually to your liking. The addition of a very small amount of Clove is also very nice in a Pasta Sauce and adds depth.

Common ingredients in an Italian Seasoning are below.

  1. Basil
  2. Chili Flakes
  3. Oregano
  4. Parsley
  5. Rosemary
  6. Thyme
  7. Marjoram
  8. Sage
  9. Bay Leaf
  10. Myrtle

Basil & Parsley

Parsley & Basil should really be at the forefront. These two pair up so well with Tomatoes.

Basil is just perfect with Tomatoes and is always used in Pasta Sauce. So much so, that Basil Leaves are often included when bottling Homemade Passata. It just has an uplifting effect that is very pleasing.

Fresh Packaged Basil

Fresh Basil

Fresh Basil is much preferred over Dried. If using Fresh, save these towards the end to be torn or Chopped and added to the Sauce right before it is done. Use 1 package or 28 g/1 oz. or more.

Tomato Leaves & Vine

An uncommon seasoning but very good is Tomato Leaves & Vine. When simmered in the sauce at the end, there is a Fresh Tomato aroma and flavors these can impart. It’s that special ingredient that will have people guessing but not being able to pin point it.

Fresh Tomato Leaves

Tomato leaves

Interestingly the components in Tomato leaves, mainly Tomatine binds with Cholesterol and gets eliminated by the body instead of absorbing it. This could be another reason to include Tomato Leaves and Vines in your Pasta Sauce.

This is also very good to get those Tomato flavors that are typically in Passata when using other Tomato products that are not as balanced as Passata.

While Salt, Acidity, Sweetness, Spiciness are used to balance out the Sauce. It will often lack that Fresh Tomato Flavor that is present in Passata. Adding in Fresh Tomato Leaves brings with it that Fresh Tomato Flavor.

Pasta Sauce Consistency

Traditional Pasta Sauce is simmered for hours to evaporate the excess water and concentrate in both Flavor & Consistency while Caramelizing. It is possible to both simmer not long enough (thin Sauce) or too long (thick Sauce) in which the Sauce becomes like a Paste. You’re looking for right in between that.

The consistency is affected by how much water or lack of it is in your final Pasta Sauce. In some cases you will have to simmer for longer than 2 hours and in other cases you will have to add more water to prevent the Sauce from becoming too thick. Pay attention to the liquid around the bubbles when simmering, this will tell you how thick or thin your sauce is.

Fine Pasta Sauce

Fine Pasta Sauce doesn’t have any bits of Vegetables in the Sauce. Instead the Vegetables are chopped into large chunks and simmered in the Sauce to be removed later once they have softened. This creates a Super Fine Sauce with minimal Vegetable Pulp.

Chop Onion, Carrot & Celery in half. Cook the meats you will add to the Sauce. Add everything into the Pot to simmer until the Vegetables are very soft. Then remove them.

What you are left with is a Tomato Sauce that is flavored lightly with the Vegetables. With no additional Pulp from the Vegetables. Just good clean fine Tomato Sauce that focuses more so on the Tomatoes.

Smooth Pasta Sauce

A Smooth Pasta Sauce has all of the Vegetables pureed into a homogenized Sauce with no noticeable bits of Vegetables. It includes the Pulp from the Vegetables added into the Sauce.

Add chopped Onion, Carrot and Celery to a Blender. Puree and empty into the Saucepot with the Oil. Cook over medium low heat until golden in color, don’t brown the Vegetables.

Chunky Past Sauce

A Chunky Pasta Sauce is where you do want to see bits of Vegetables like the Onion & Peppers in the Sauce. How Chunky the Sauce is will depend on how large you dice the Vegetables. The larger the dice the better the Vegetables will hold up to the long simmering time.

Another option is to reserve some diced Vegetables to add to the Sauce when it is just about done. A good time is when about 30 minutes of cook time remain. Add them earlier or later depending on how Soft or Firm you like the chunky bits of Vegetables.

Pasta Sauce with Broth

Broth will add additional Meatiness to the Sauce. The tradeoff is that it reduces the Tomato Flavor.

The type of Broth depends on how Light or Heavy you want the overall Sauce to be. The Bouillon Cube can be omitted for a more Tomato focused Sauce.

Maggi Bouillon Cubes

Maggi Bouillon Cubes

Use 1 Bouillon Cube.

  • Light Meat Sauce – Use Knorr Vegetable or Maggi Chicken Bouillon
  • Medium – Use Knorr Pork Bouillon
  • Heavy – Use Knorr Mushroom or Maggi Beef Bouillon

Pasta Meat Sauce

A Pasta Meat Sauce or Ragu includes various minced meats and is really all bout what you want to use.

The three blend combination of meat (Ground Beef, Italian Sausages, Pork Chop or Steak) is very flavorful and has a wonderful texture to a Pasta Meat Sauce. This can be made with just ground beef, using about 1 lb. or more. You can also combine Beef, Pork and Veal with Italian Sausages or any combination of.

Ground Beef

Ground Beef

About 1/2 a lb. of ground Beef when combined with other meats or just 1 lb. or more if using just ground beef.

Italian Sausages

Italian Sausages

Two Italian Sausages skin removed and cooked with the ground beef.

Another option is to cook whole with the Pork Chop or Steak and added to the Pasta Sauce to simmer. This will be removed later, minced and added back into the Sauce.

1 Inch Bone In Pork Chop

Pork or Beef

Fat trimmed off and rendered out to Sear the Pork Chop or Steak along with the whole Sausages if desired. Add whole to the Sauce to simmer. Remove and mince to add back into the Sauce.

Cooking Meats for Pasta Sauce

  1. Render the Fat
    • Start with rendering the fat out from the trimmed fat of either the pork chop or steak over medium low heat. Discard the crackling or scoop it out and set aside to chop finely and include in the sauce.
  2. Sear the Meat
    • Sear pork chop or steak and set aside. Optionally with whole Italian sausages. Searing meats creates a fond that adds so much more flavor to pasta sauce.
  3. Sauté the Soffritto
    • Add the EVOO and soffritto and sauté until the vegetables are softened. About 10 minutes. Don’t let them brown. Then add tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Brown Ground Meats
    • Add ground Beef with thawed Sausages skin removed and cook until browned while breaking the meat up. Optionally add wine and cook until reduced by half.
  5. Simmer the Sauce Low and Slow
    • Add the Sauce and any seared meats to simmer with the Sauce. Towards the end, remove large pieces of meat, if included from the sauce and chop finely to add back into the sauce when about 30 minutes of cook time remain.

Pasta Sauce with Wine

A good drinking Red or White Wine is often used in a Bolognese or Ragu style Past Sauce. Add 1/2 C – 1 Cup of Wine to the ground meat mix and cook until reduce by half or more.

How much Sauce for Pasta

It really depends on how saucy or dry you prefer your pasta, what type of pasta you are using and whether your sauce contains meat and how much. A good guide line is 4 oz. or about 100 g of Pasta to 8 oz. or about 200 g of Sauce per person.

Recipes using Pasta Sauce

Spaghetti

100 g of Spaghetti tossed with 200 g of Pasta Meat Sauce with more Sauce on top and a side of Air Fried Garlic Bread.

Spaghetti with Sauce on top and Garlic Bread
Spaghetti with Sauce on top and Garlic Bread

Pasta Pita

This Pasta Sauce is really good on some Pita bread for a Pasta Pita. Brush the Pita Bread with Garlic Butter and spread leftover Pasta Sauce on top with torn pieces of sliced Provolone Cheese. You get the tiny bits of meat in it with the sauce and the beautiful Provolone Cheese. Really something else.

Pasta Pita
Pasta Pita
Tomato Pasta Sauce pin

Pasta Sauce

Homemade Pasta Sauce to use for various Pasta dishes. Simmered gently for 2 hours or more to caramelize and intensify the Flavors. Adjust the Salt, Acidity, Sweetness and Spiciness to your preference.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 20 mins
Course: Ingredient, Main Course, Sauce
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: Lasagna Sauce, Pasta Bake Sauce, Pasta Meat Sauce, Pasta Sauce, Ragu Sauce, Spaghetti Sauce, Tomato Sauce
Servings: 8 portions
Author: JAH

Equipment

  • 1 Saucepot

Ingredients

Tomato Sauce

  • 3 C Crushed Tomatoes - or 1×28 oz. Can
  • 2 C Tomato Juice
  • 2 C Water
  • 1/4 C Tomato Paste - Double or Triple Concentrate
  • 1 28 g Fresh Basil - or use 1 Tbl Dried Basil or more
  • 1 Tbl Sea Salt & White Sugar - adjust to your taste
  • 1 Tbl Parsley
  • 1 tsp Red Wine Vinegar - or less
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper, Fennel Seeds, Oregano, & Thyme
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Flakes - or more
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Clove & Ground Rosemary

Soffritto

  • 1 C Onion - Diced
  • 1/2 C Carrot - Shredded and Chopped or small diced
  • 1/2 C Celery - Diced
  • 1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Cloves Garlic - Chopped

Meats

  • 1/2 lb. Ground Beef - or more
  • 2 Italian Sausages - or more

Instructions

  • Measure out 1/4 C of Tomato Paste & Basil and set them aside. Combine remaining Tomato Sauce ingredients into a bowl and set aside.
    If using Passata, use the water to rinse the jars and include with the Tomato Sauce.
  • Prepare the Vegetables/Soffritto and process depending on what type of Sauce you want. Chunky, Smooth or Fine.
    See notes on Chunky, Smooth or Fine Sauce.
  • With the Saucepot over medium low heat, cook the Soffritto in EVOO until softened, about 10 minutes. Do not brown the Soffritto.
    Add the Tomato paste and mix well, turn the heat up to medium and cook for about 1-2 minutes.
    Add in Ground Beef & Sausages with the casing removed and cook through breaking the meat up and mixing. About 5 minutes.
  • Turn the heat up to max and Add the bowl of Tomato Sauce. As soon as it starts to simmer, drop the heat to low.
    Partially cover and simmer gently for 2 hours or until a good consistency. Stir about every 10 minutes or so, scraping the bottom of the saucepot.
  • Add in some fresh torn Basil and adjust the Seasoning if needed. Use with various Pasta dishes like Spaghetti, Lasagna, or Pasta Bakes.

Notes

How long to simmer

This recipe simmers for 2 hours. The consistency will depend on how much excess water is in the sauce and will vary from different tomato products. Add more water if necessary to maintain a good consistency, about 1/2 C at a time. Simmer longer if it isn’t thick enough.
The consistency should be that it adheres to the Pasta. But does not have any run off liquid pooling at the bottom of the plate. Which would indicate the sauce is too thin. At the same time it should not be so thick that it’s like a tomato paste on the Pasta. 
 

Chunky Pasta Sauce

Dice the Vegetables and Sauté in Olive Oil as in the above recipe. For a more Chunkier version dice the vegetables a bit larger so that they hold up better during the long simmer.
 

Smooth Pasta Sauce

Puree the Vegetables and Sauté in Olive Oil just until golden color. 
 

Fine Pasta Sauce

Chop the Onion, Carrot, Celery in half, and crush the Garlic. Place Olive Oil into the Saucepot with Tomato Paste and cook the ground Meats. Add in the Vegetables and Sauce. Turn the heat up to max and as soon as the sauce starts to simmer drop the heat to low. Remove the Vegetables once they become soft.
 
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