How To: Tomato Sauce

Welcome to How To. In this video series Kevin Van, of both Providence and The Dining Society, will guide us through simple, delicious at-home recipes. If you have a recipe request, let us know in the comments.

Kevin Van's Tomato Sauce
This sauce is based on a mix of a Mario Batali recipe, which I think highlights the tenets of Italian cooking, and Marcella Hazan's recipe, which extols simplicity. The key technique here is the browning of the onions and garlic, and the subtle differences in flavor that result from either cooking too fast or cooking too slow: too fast and you get a Southeast Asian flavor profile, too slow and it's French. Getting that Italian flavor profile requires that the onions and garlic be cooked at a low temperature for a long time in just olive oil.

Serves 1 or 2
1/2 cup olive oil, good quality but not too expensive to cook with
3 shallots, (or 1/4 yellow onion), sliced thinly by hand or mandoline
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly by hand or mandoline
1 anchovy filet (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 pound peeled and quartered tomatoes, preferably san marzano, early girl, or celebrity variety (if unavailable, substitute with canned peeled san marzano tomatoes)
Parmesan cheese (plus rind)
Pinch of salt

Using a 3-quart saucepan, slowly heat the olive oil, garlic, onions, anchovy, and a pinch of salt over medium heat. When it starts bubbling, take care to maintain the heat level while stirring with a spoon or spatula occasionally to evenly distribute the cooking. After 5-10 minutes, the shallots will begin to color very slightly - at this point keep stirring to prevent burning the shallots.

When the shallots turn a translucent pale brown take the pan off the heat, and add the butter while stirring to cool down the oil. If you taste a piece of shallot at this point it should taste sweet and aromatic, not caramel-sweet and definitely not bitter. The texture of the shallot should be gummy and chewy, not crispy.

Transfer the mix to a blender and grind it as fine as possible. Pour it back into the saucepan and add the tomatoes. Bring this back up to heat over a medium flame. If you're the kind of person that saves the rinds of Parmesan in the freezer (because why wouldn't you?), this sauce definitely invites a chunk of Parmesan rind thrown in, in addition to bits of Parmesan, to taste.

Cook this on medium low heat for about 30 minutes, or until desired consistency, being sure to mash and stir the tomatoes every now and then. Finish the sauce with grated parmesan, a healthy glug of olive oil, and a little more salt if needed.

"Scattered Knowledge" by Revolution Void is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Find us on Tumblr here.
Follow us on Twitter here.
Follow us on Facebook here.

About the Author

Katherine is the former Living Managing Editor at She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
RSS icon


Autumn Recipes: Kabocha & Fennel Soup with Creme Fraiche


Fair Trade California

LEAVE A COMMENT Leave Comment  


My recipe request: How To: The perfect steak.


This tomato sauce sounds really good. Lets see if I can recreate it


wow, simply outstanding tomato sauce, cannot wait for your next recipe! :)


yummmmm looks bomb :)


I want to try this method because it sounds really good but I think the ingredient list is wrong after watching the video. It says 3 cloves of garlic but in the video you show 3 heads of garlic and the tomatoes say 1/2 lb. but the video shows you using what looks like more than that. Can you clarify? Thanks.


Hi, so to clarify, the recipe listed yields 1-2 servings of sauce, and we filmed what was more like a 4x batch. cheers, kv


This looks so yummy!I am hungry now...Let's see if I can make it myself.