I found this simple recipe in the New York Times Cooking section about 6 months ago and have been using it ever since. It’s simple - only a handful of ingredients, and it’s versatile - I use it as a pizza sauce, pasta sauce, eggplant Parmesan and the list goes on. The best part is it only takes 30 minutes or less to make. The most important thing about this recipe is to use certified canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy. If you’re on the lookout, it’s pretty easy to spot these beauties at your local grocery store which should carry a few certified brands. If you have access to an Italian grocery store, even better because they carry a variety of brands and price points.
San Marzano tomatoes are grown just south of Naples in volcanic soil courtesy of Mount Vesuvius. They have a distinct flavor that is hard to find anywhere else – the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. When I made a pizza with canned sauce (Oh...My...God!) my kids complained that their mama’s homemade pizza didn’t taste right. They were used to the glory that is San Marzano tomatoes, so of course I can’t take shortcuts ever again…
The original recipe calls for 7 cloves of sliced garlic. While I do enjoy garlic, I think that’s a bit much. I use about 3 cloves sliced and then remove them when the sauce is done but that’s just my personal preference. I love that you use your clean hands to crush the tomatoes and when you add them to the olive oil and sizzling garlic it looks like velvet.
1 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes, D.O.P certified if possible
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 large fresh basil sprig, or ¼ teaspoon of dried oregano
1.) Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and slosh it around to get tomato juices. Reserve.
2.) In a large skillet (do not use a deep pot) over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add garlic.
3.) As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes, then the reserved tomato water. Add red pepper flakes, oregano (if using) and salt. Stir.
4.) Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface. Let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes. (If using oregano, taste sauce after 10 minutes of simmering, adding more salt and oregano as needed.) Discard basil.