Cooking, It’s Not Rocket Science: Red Sauce

Some of the ingredients of my Red Sauce

Growing up Mom always cooked and baked, Dad would handle the grill duties.  Going “out to dinner” in the O’Connell house was rare, very rare, it had to be a special occasion.  A stranger delivering food to our house?  Not on my father’s watch.  Take out? Yeah, you take it out of our fridge.  We had our couple local competing grocery stores and my dad’s go to butcher/deli market.

When I think about the eye roll it goes way back in our house.  If my Mom heard of someone “who did not cook”, the story usually entailed an eye roll.

I grew up in the kitchen and learned how to cook basically through osmosis.  The reality is cooking is not hard you experiment, sometimes it is delicious, sometimes you mess up, so be it.

Here is a basic red sauce I just kind of created on the fly.  It all started really when I saw a giant display of San Marzano tomatoes at Bristol Farms on sale.  I picked up a few cans not knowing what I was going to use them for but I knew they would be put to use.  (Bristol Farms is not our go to market, I think I picked up so many cans, basically it was the cheapest thing on the shelf).

Potato masher to squish the tomatoes

The ingredients are simple and probably staples in your cabinet or use what you have.


  • 28 oz can of San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 1 Can of Crushed tomatoes (pictured was a 28 oz can, however a 14.5 oz can will also work and you can vary it by even trying fire roasted)
  • One medium size onion personally I have no preference on red white or yellow.
  • 5 gloves of garlic minimum
  • Granulated garlic
  • Granulated onion
  • Italian seasoning
  • Crush red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Ground black pepper (optional)
  • Salt (very optional)

My take on seasoning measurements

  • You will notice with my seasoning there are no precise measurements.  My measurements are eyeballed.  Starting out, less is fine and your seasoning can be adjusted.  If you need a guide say 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, ½ tablespoon of onion powder, 5 or so good dashes of Italian seasoning.  Pepper flakes, we have a bottle we purchased, however, I use what is on hand, the packages that usually come with a to go pizza will of course work.  The pepper flakes are very optional this is just a bit of heat to the sauce, which I like, you may not.  I did make a mistake adding two packets one time, but maybe ½ a teaspoon is adequate to start off if you want heat.  I use grated parmesan as a bit of a thickner, if we don’t have fresh, then again once, can use to go packets from the same to go pizza or maybe two teaspoons.   For the black ground pepper I use a good 10 grinds or so of the peppermill.  If you have it a splash of red wine, but again wine is optional.


  • Dice an onion, here is a super simple technique video I found on the web
  • Preheat a medium size sauce pan on medium heat, add a heavy tablespoon of olive oil or enough to coat the bottom of the pan, add your onion.  Cook until soft at least 10 minutes.
  • While the onion is cooking, peel and finely chop your garlic.  I then like to make it into a paste (here, again, is a simple garlic technique video I found on the web
  • After your onion is cooked, add your garlic, stir around for a good 30 seconds and either take off the heat or be ready to add your canned tomatoes.  The goal is not to burn the garlic, it will burn quickly.  The sooner you add your canned goods the better.
  • With your pan on medium heat, add your San Marzano, then crushed.  Since I buy whole tomatoes, I use a potato masher (pictured) gently pop the whole tomatoes, they will explode when applying pressure so do it slowly.  At this stage I add all the seasoning and maybe a splash  red wine
  • Stir all ingredients thoroughly scraping the bottom of the pan, cover and put on low.  I let this cook on the stove for at least 1 hour, usually 90 minutes stirring maybe every 20 minutes.  Halfway through the heating process I will check the seasoning, add accordingly to taste.  It should be noted in an effort to reduce salt intake I do not add any, although salt is up to you.
Bottom to top Red Sauce ingredients: olive oil, onion, garlic, San Marzano, crushed tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, italian seasoning, red pepper flake, ground black pepper, splash of red wine and parmesan cheese

From here this cooked sauce could go over, your pasta of choice, or spaghetti squash, as a sauce on your homemade pizza, or even a layering of a lasagna and of course leftovers can be frozen.

When you think about it, this is a super simple recipe as is, but if you wanted, you could add other ingredients such as cut up summer squash into disks, or cubed eggplant, raw mushrooms, cooked ground beef or sausage.  Since it is only Renee & I we usually have two dinners with this recipe and freeze the rest for another time.

If you have questions or comments about my version of a red sauce feel free to email:

Sign up to receive the latest news direct to your inbox

Previous articleAir Canada Mistake Fare $700 r/t for Two: San Diego to Australia
Next articleRandom Acts of Greenness: Intact, Or Worn Out, Recycle That Fabric!