Tinkered Tomato Sauce

Tinkered Tomato Sauce

Remember how I didn’t blog very much last fall? That’s because I was living it up in Italy! Bobby and I went for two weeks to see Venice and Rome (and Belgium at the beginning of the trip, but that doesn’t really fit the theme). Venice is the most magnificent place I’ve ever been in my whole life, and I miss it constantly. I ate pizza for lunch and pasta for dinner nearly every day, and I have zero regrets. Here’s a quick peek at our trip…is it time for me to go back yet?



Upon returning home, I was obsessed with getting my mom’s recipe for tomato sauce. She’s been working on it for years, and I don’t think I had a proper appreciation for good tomato sauce until I went on this trip. My mom’s sauce is aptly named Tinkered Tomato Sauce, since she experimented with it for so long before getting it just right. It has that bright tomato flavor, deep warm garlic base, and bold spices that are sautéed in olive oil at the beginning of the cooking process to help them become as rich and aromatic as possible. This sauce is good on homemade pizza or as a pasta topping, and it’ll make you want to never buy a jar of sauce off the shelf again. It’s easy to make, too – and you can make an enormous batch and freeze some until you need more.

The holidays and the fall wedding season took over my life when we got back from our trip, so try not to hold it against me that it’s taken me this long to share! Of course, once you taste it, you probably will hold it against me, since it’s that wonderful, but I hope we can get past that. Now go make some and pretend you’re in a gondola, drifting down a canal in Venice as someone feeds you pizza and the gondolier sings…instead of talking on his cell phone like he did for us.

Tinkered Tomato Sauce

Servings 3 cups, before straining


  • 3 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 tsps dried leaf oregano
  • 1 tsp dried leaf basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp crushed dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried leaf marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp dried leaf thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried ground sage
  • 28 oz can plain crushed tomatoes
  • dash of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese


  1. Saute the onion in the olive oil until soft. While it is cooking, crush all the herbs and spices {except the red pepper) with mortar and pestle, and immediately add to the onion (at least 5 mins cooking time for the herbs etc). Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper and saute for 1 minute longer.

    Stir in the remaining ingredients, simmer over low heat for 30 – 45 minutes. Taste and adjust  - add more salt if desired.

    Can be put through the blender and strained for a smoother sauce (which allows use of chopped instead of crushed tomatoes and a rougher chop of the onion and garlic); it will be quite thin after straining.