Sometimes I wonder if it is worthwhile to post basic, staple recipes such as spaghetti — there certainly is no shortage of them elsewhere on the internet. But then I remember that it was not so long ago that I myself thought all spaghetti sauce came from a jar, and that Italian grandmothers were the only ones with both the knowledge and patience to make it from scratch. Little did I realize that a wonderful tomato sauce can be made in the time it takes to boil the pasta!
I still usually have a jar of premade sauce in my pantry, but only for outright emergencies. After making it myself, taste-wise, I just can’t go back. Not to mention jarred sauces are often high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and almost always SUPER high in sodium. If you are buying premade sauce, be sure to check the nutrition label and choose brands lowest in sugar and sodium. Also check that it is made with olive oil.
But seriously. Making it from scratch is so easy. You just have to be willing to dice one onion and some garlic. And you’re willing to do that, right? Besides, what else are you going to do while you’re waiting for that huge pot of water to boil?
At the height of summer, when garden-fresh tomatoes are abundant and delicious, you can make a most divine sauce by peeling and seeding and crushing an obscene number of tomatoes — and THAT does take a long time. Or, you can use my shortcut version which tastes pretty good too. I pretty much live on that recipe in the months of July and August.
However, this time of year, you won’t be able to find anything that can be rightly called a tomato in stores around here. So rely on canned tomatoes. Just be aware that ALL canned tomatoes contain trace amounts of BPA. Although some canned good manufacturers are replacing the BPA lining in their products, there is simply no substitute for BPA for tomatoes as they are so acidic. So I usually use the jarred strained tomatoes made by Bionaturae, or ones I canned myself.
Anyway. Here is the recipe. I am calling this a puttanesca sauce, because it is a basic recipe and has capers, and also because it just sounds fancy (although it apparently means whore?!). I have no idea if this would be considered a “real” puttanesca sauce!
And remember, feel free to make your own adjustments. Do you prefer thick garden vegetable sauces? Add some diced peppers, mushrooms, even diced squash at the same time I add the capers and olives below. Like your sauce extra garlic-y? Add more! Spicy? Use more crushed red pepper! There are endless possibilities with this sauce. I actually had a few frozen peppers on hand so I tossed those in as well.
Sugo alla Puttanesca
24 oz jar crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon capers
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/4 cup+ assorted olives (I actually left these out. I hate olives).
1/4 cup wine (I usually use red but any kind will do, as long as it’s not too sweet)
salt, pepper to taste
sugar or honey, to taste
Saute the onion in extra-virgin olive oil.
If I have time, I like to saute them on low heat for 10-15 minutes, until they are starting to caramelize. Caramelized onions make everything better.
But, if you don’t have time, and I often don’t, just saute the onion for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat, until translucent and soft.
If you want to add some mushrooms, add those now and cook them for about 5 minutes before proceeding — until they have cooked down some.
Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so. Then add the spices. I am partial to Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset for a basic Italian seasoning. You will also want a LOT of black pepper. I don’t measure it because I grind it right in, but 10-15 grinds sounds about right. Add a little bit of salt and then adjust later.
Add the wine, give it a stir, and then toss in the capers, olives, and any other veggies you are using.
Cook until the wine is reduced and a bit syrupy and your veggies are cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the jar of tomatoes. Stir to combine, turn heat down, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until it has thickened to your liking.
Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. If it tastes overly acidic, add just a pinch of sugar or honey to tone it down.
Serve with your favorite pasta and a bit of freshly grated Parmesan, and enjoy!