Red sauce is a classic and popular dish that is sure to please. It’s also simple to make and only requires a few key ingredients in order to create a delightful and flavorful dish.
To make red sauce, you’ll need basic kitchen staples like olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and some herbs. Let’s discuss the full list of ingredients needed to make a delicious red sauce:
- Olive oil
Tomatoes are the main ingredient in most red sauces, adding both the key flavor and characteristic red hue. Tomatoes can be included in a sauce in a variety of ways, such as diced tomatoes, pureed or strained tomatoes, tomato paste, or fresh tomato slices.
- Diced tomatoes add texture to the sauce and often provide sweetness due to the natural sugars within.
- Pureed or strained tomatoes add a creamy texture which helps thicken the overall structure of the sauce.
- Lastly, using tomato paste can bring more tangy and intense flavors to sauces that need a boost of acidity and depth.
Depending on your desired result you may opt out for one or combine multiple options when making homemade red sauce.
Onions are a key ingredient in red sauce, adding flavor, sweetness and texture. Finely chopped or minced onions are often sautéed with olive oil or butter at the beginning of the cooking process to bring out hidden sweetness. Red onions, shallots, yellow onions, or even sweet white onions can give your red sauce a flavorful base that helps other ingredients come together harmoniously.
Onions cook best over low heat and should be used when the recipe calls for them to be softened. Take care not to caramelize them as you might when using onions for other dishes as this can cause the sauce to turn brown which could affect its overall flavor and appearance. Cook for about 3–4 minutes until the onions become slightly softened and translucent.
When onion is cooked through, consider adding a pinch of sugar to reduce acidic bitterness in the final dish. This can also help balance out other tastes during cooking like garlic and tomatoes, which also contain acids that could impact flavor.
Garlic, a pungent and flavorful ingredient, is a key component to creating a delicious red sauce. It not only adds flavor but also works as an emulsifier. Whether you use garlic in the form of chopped garlic cloves, granulated garlic powder, or roasted garlic paste, this essential component will help all the other flavors of your red sauce meld together in perfect harmony.
When adding garlic to your red sauce mix it with your herbs for best results. If using fresh garlic cloves be sure to cook them until fragrant before adding to other ingredients – about one minute or so in the hot pan for best results. Chopped or minced garlic works great with diced tomatoes and will blend well with other herbs like oregano, basil and rosemary. Granulated garlic powder will add depth of flavor by slowly mellowing when cooked and should be added either at the beginning or during while you are cooking the red sauce – this is key to releasing its aromas and flavors into your sauce. Lastly, roasted garlic paste is a great alternative when time is an issue – simply add it near the end of cooking for maximum flavor impact.
Olive oil is one of the most broadly-used ingredients when it comes to cooking red sauce. It’s not too heavy, and imparts a subtle flavor that complements the other seasonings. Olive oil also has a higher smoke point than butter, so it works well in recipes that require direct heat.
When cooking red sauce with olive oil, you’ll want to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) as it has a richer, more intense flavor than other varieties of olive oil and is generally considered the highest quality available. To ensure the best results, be sure to select an olive oil that has been cold-pressed for flavor and freshness.
When heating the olive oil, you can use either medium or high heat depending on your recipe’s instructions. If your recipe calls for adding minced garlic or peppers to the saucepan before adding your sauce ingredients, using medium heat will help avoid burning them (if using high heat!) and will help them toast evenly in the pan without needing excess oil.
If adding other vegetables like onions or bell peppers to your red sauce recipe, adding some additional olive oil at this stage can help give them some extra color and add extra flavor when cooking. For a final touch of flavor, try seasoning your red sauce with common pantry items like oregano and parsley – bold herbs like these pair beautifully with bold tomatoes!
Salt and pepper
Adding salt and pepper to your red sauce is an important part of perfecting the flavor. Salt is a natural flavor enhancer and can help bring out other flavors in the sauce. For example, if your sauce has a hint of sweetness, adding salt will accentuate that sweetness.
Pepper adds both flavor and heat to a dish. Pepper comes in many forms ranging from mild to hot. The type of pepper you add to your recipe will depend on the desired level of heat. When seasoning with pepper, be sure to start with small amounts and taste as you go so that you don’t make the dish too spicy!
Cooking red sauce requires some preparation, such as properly washing and chopping ingredients, to ensure an enjoyable meal. To prepare for your red sauce dish, make sure you have all the necessary ingredients and equipment, such as a knife and a cutting board. Then, begin to wash each vegetable and dry it off.
Next, start to chop the vegetables into small pieces according to what the recipe calls for. Once you have the vegetables chopped, you are ready to begin cooking your red sauce.
Peel and chop the onion
Before you begin preparing your red sauce, start by peeling and chopping one whole onion into small cubes. Place the chopped onions in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
Onions are highly nutritious and provide us with essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. They contain unique sulfur compounds that may help reduce inflammation in the body. The onion’s versatile flavor makes it a perfect ingredient for many dishes such as curries, salads, soups, tacos, and pizza topping.
When preparing your red sauce be sure to use a sharp knife when peeling and chopping the onion. After you have finished slicing each layer of the onion evenly into small cubes try to make sure that each piece is of equal size and shape for optimal flavor and texture when cooked. Once you have finished cubing the onions add them to your pot or pan over medium-high heat along with some oil to cook until they become lightly browned.
Peel and mince the garlic
The garlic is the aromatic base of any well-made red sauce and as such, preparing it properly is essential.
To peel and mince garlic, start by removing the papery skin that encloses each clove. You can break up the head of garlic with a chef’s knife, separate the cloves and remove their skin. Once you have peeled all the cloves of garlic, use a cutting board to chop them into very small pieces. Use a rocking motion with your knife if you’re not comfortable with mincing them finely by hand. When you are done mincing, the garlic should be sufficiently small that it will melt into the sauce rather than form large chunks in it.
Heat the olive oil in a pan
To begin making your red sauce, heat ¼ cup of olive oil or vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic and stir until fragrant, which should take about 1 minute.
Next, add 3 cups of chopped tomatoes and ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for another 10 minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down.
Add the onion and garlic and sauté
Now it’s time to add the flavor to the sauce. Start by heating up a sauce pan on medium heat and adding a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add in one small, diced onion and 4 finely chopped cloves of garlic. Sauté the onions and garlic until they are lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them from burning. This will give your sauce that subtle sweetness that is characteristic of red sauces.
Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes
Once you have browned the garlic and onions in oil, you can add the tomatoes to the pan. Usually, it’s best to use crushed canned tomatoes or tomato passata (strained tomatoes). Once you have added the tomatoes, bring it to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes. This will allow all the flavors to develop, while reducing the acidity of this acidic sauce – thus making it more comforting.
If you choose fresh tomatoes for your red sauce, cook it even longer – up to 15 minutes – until they are very soft and start falling apart. This will help reduce their acidity and also help create a nice texture for your sauce.
For a really smooth-textured sauce which is ideal for pasta dishes, keep simmering until all the big chunks of tomato break down and disappear into your sauce – about 25 minutes for fresh tomatoes (a little bit less if you are using tinned). Now add some herbs like oregano or basil leaves and season with salt and pepper as required.
Season with salt and pepper
When preparing a red sauce, it is important to season it correctly before it’s ready to serve. The two most commonly used spices in Italian cuisine are salt and pepper. Adding just the right amount of each can really bring out the flavors of your dish.
When seasoning with salt and pepper, add the salt first and taste as you go—it can be quite easy to over-salt. Generally speaking, about one teaspoon of salt for every two cups of sauce should do the trick. You will want to adjust this ratio if you have added additional ingredients that boost the flavor but also contain their own “salty” taste like anchovies or capers.
Once you have salted your red sauce to your liking, begin adding pepper, starting with about a ¼ teaspoon for every two cups of sauce or to taste. Some chefs suggest adding half a teaspoon for every four cups but keep in mind that you can always add more pepper than less if need be; however, too much can really overpower the other flavors in your sauce so use caution when beginning to season with the spice.
It is important to remember that these measurements are merely guidelines! Everyone has different personal tastes so feel free to modify them according to your preference and get creative with other herbs and spices like oregano or garlic powder.
Once the sauce is heated and bubbling, you’re almost ready to enjoy your red sauce! At this point, you can add any seasoning you like – freshly grated Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, crushed red pepper flakes and more. You can also add a splash of cream or some butter for richness if desired. Make sure to taste the sauce and adjust seasoning according to your preference.
Let’s take a look at the finishing touches for this delicious red sauce:
Blend the sauce in a food processor
If you want a smooth, homogeneous sauce, blend your sauce with a food processor. Wait for the sauce to cool completely before using the food processor, as too much heat can cause your food processor’s blades to get dull quickly.
Add the entire batch of red sauce into the bowl of your food processor and pulse on low speed until you reach a desired consistency. If you want an extra-smooth texture, let it run for a few minutes longer. A food processor is also great if you have any soupy items like diced tomatoes or chunky vegetables in your red sauce that you’d like to ensure are well-blended into the rest of the sauce.
Taste and adjust the seasoning
The taste of the red sauce is very important. To adjust the seasoning and get the best flavor, be sure to taste your sauce and adjust accordingly.
Start by tasting a small spoonful of the sauce to make sure all your flavors are blending nicely. If you prefer a milder sauce, add a pinch of sugar to balance out the acidity from the tomato. If you like your red sauce with a bit more spice, feel free to add in garlic, onion or chili flakes as desired.
Once you’ve established how spicy and acidic you’d like your sauce, add in herbs like oregano or basil for an extra layer of flavor. Make sure not to overcook these so they retain their bright color and fabulous aroma.
Finally, after all ingredients have been added, check for saltiness and adjust if necessary before serving.
Serve with your favorite pasta dish
Serve the red sauce over your favorite choice of noodles for a flavorful, comforting meal. Spaghetti, fettuccine or linguine noodles work well and you can use any shape or size pasta you like. If you’re using larger shapes like lasagna, simply spread a thin layer of sauce to easily coat the pasta.
To take your presentation up a notch, top the finished dish with fresh ingredients such as fresh basil leaves and grated parmesan cheese for a gourmet-style meal that is sure to impress. You can also add other toppings such as crumbled Italian sausage and diced bell peppers for flavor and added texture.
Served hot with a side salad or garlic bread and your favorite red wine, this hearty Italian classic is sure to be an instant favorite in your household. Enjoy!