Ain’t nothing better to do with a big box of farmer’s market tomatoes than make THIS… My absolute favorite from scratch tomato sauce of all time. Scale it to the amount of tomatoes you have – it freezes beautifully – and becomes the most lovely base for anything your Italian-inspired mind dreams up! (Psst – all my dreams for this sauce involve eggplant 😉).
Smiles light up my kids’ faces when I tell them I’m making “Giusy’s Sauce” (pronounced JUICY). At least twice a summer I buy a huge box of farmer’s market tomatoes and make a big batch of this family favorite. I’ve been making it for the past 6 years on repeat… ever since we got back from our Sicilian adventure.
Somewhere on the southern coast of the island of Sicily, outside of Agrigento, our family visited Giuseppa’s farm and kitchen. For 5 hours we were schooled in the intricacies of traditional Sicicilan cooking. I came away with a treasure trove of recipes, and our family came away with memories to last a lifetime (and VERY full tummies)!
In part due to the language barrier, we had no idea that after making (and devouring!) a full course of Pasta alla Norma, that we would be treated to a 6 course lunch! Complete with an antipasto platter, TWO more pastas, a salad course, grilled pork, and of course the obligatory (and utterly amazing) homemade cannoli.
I still dream of that afternoon – the whole family does – and making this sauce reminds us of sunny Sicilian skies. In fact, my youngest, Miles, just requested this sauce to be made with spaghetti and meatballs for his birthday dinner! Kid, you’ve got good taste 😋.
The secret is cooking the sauce twice. Trust me, it’s totally worth it.
First time around the skin and seeds of the tomatoes are not removed. Together with the onion and basil sprigs, the extra tomato bits work to develop an amazing depth of flavor.
Then the sauce is strained, and the smooth tomato sauce is cooked with more onion and garlic. Left to mellows in the pot and thicken up, this is where the magic happens!
In the recipe notes I give my two favorite ways to use this sauce. One is the Pasta alla Norma that we made that spectacular Sicilian afternoon- and the other is a lighter take on an eggplant parm.
And of course it makes for a stellar spaghetti and meatballs! Happy 8th birthday, little buddy!
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Best Big Batch, From Scratch Tomato Sauce
- 5 pounds ripe tomatoes
- 1 large sweet white onion or two small
- 2 large sprigs basil
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar optional
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt more to taste
- Core tomatoes and cut into large chunks. Place in a large pot with the basil sprigs. Peel the onion and cut in half. Put half the onion away. Cut the other half in two or three large wedges and add to the tomatoes. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down. This should take 1 ½ or 2 hours.
- Carefully pour the sauce into a food mill, or if you do not have one into a mesh strainer, over a large bowl. If using the food mill, pass all of the sauce through and discard the solids. If using a strainer, use a spatula or spoon to press on the mixture until it is all passed through, except for the skin and seeds and discard them.
- At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the unseasoned tomato sauce or portions of it.
- Chop the remaining onion finely and finely chop the garlic. Warm the olive oil in a large pot and saute the onions and garlic until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Pour in the sauce plus the sugar and salt and stir. Bring to a simmer and place a lid slightly ajar to catch any spatters. Cook for 35-45 minutes until thickened. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt if necessary.
- Sauce can be frozen up to a month. Use on pasta, in eggplant parm, with meatballs, or as a pizza sauce.
Tips & Tricks
- Pasta alla Norma - In a deep wide skillet, warm 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Toss in cubed eggplant and cook over medium heat without stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Stir and cook another 2-3 minutes without disturbing. Pour in a few cups of tomato sauce and simmer partially covered until the eggplant is perfectly tender. Taste for seasoning, and toss with cooked penne pasta. Top with fresh basil and ricotta salata or fresh parmigiano.
- Grilled Eggplant Parm - Slice 2 or 3 medium to large eggplant into thick slices (about ¾ inch thick). Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and grill until softened and cooked through. Place a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, top with the grilled eggplant, more sauce, layering if necessary to fit. Top with sliced fresh mozzarella and a large handful of freshly grated parmigiano. Bake at 350 until warmed through and cheese is melted and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly chopped basil.
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