Red Sauce For Any Pasta Dish


All types of pasta are my friends. Fettuccini with cream sauces, spaghetti with red sauces, rigatoni topped with a meat sauce, any flavor stuffed raviolis, you name it, they are welcome in this house.

Top any pasta dish off with a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the residual sauce left on the plate and you will have to roll me to the couch after dinner. Even if licking the plate was socially acceptable, I can’t pass up a good slice of bread with a spread of butter. Although, it is your plate, you can lick it if you want to. I do suggest you leave the plate licking to the comforts of your own home.

I searched many years for the perfect red sauce recipe. Alfredo and other cream sauces are fairly simple and far superior to the bottled cream sauces. Red sauce is a different monster and finding the right balance of flavors in a home made red sauce was tricky.  My perfect red sauce has a thick smooth texture and has a sweet taste. In a pinch, my ideal red sauce in a jar is Francesco Rinaldi Sweet and Tasty Tomato.

One day, my mom and I decided to challenge each other to a "sauce off." We were planning a menu for an upcoming party and decided to make a vegetarian marinara sauce.

Maybe it was the challenge aspect of making the sauce but I had it in my mind that I was going to win. As I mentioned before, I like a sweet sauce but had trouble finding the right balance of flavorful and sweet. After researching many recipes, I called my mother.


I was talking with her about my love for a sweet pasta sauce and how I wanted to make that happen. She said that one of her friends always added brown sugar to her sauce. Well, there you go, I decided to add brown sugar to the sauce. It makes sense, brown sugar is added to many tomato based BBQ sauces so why not add a touch to my pasta sauce. I am not looking for a BBQ sauce sticky sweet, just a hint of sweetness to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. I wonder if my mother realized she gave away a secret that may have clenched the win for me.


Yields:  10 cups

Active time: 20 minutes

Inactive time: 1 hour

1/2 cup olive oil

2 sweet onions, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 celery sticks, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

3-28 ounce cans of San Marzano Tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons of oregano

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons of light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

A few leaves of fresh basil


In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, celery and carrots to the pan. Sautee over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the veggies are soft.


Sprinkle in the salt, oregano, bay leaves, brown sugar and black pepper.


Stir around the veggies and seasonings for another minute and pour in the three cans of tomatoes.

Bring to a boil and simmer the sauce for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and let the temperature of the sauce reduce while you set up the blender.


Take the bay leaves out of the sauce. Ladle the sauce into the blender and pulverize the sauce. Once all the sauce has been blended thoroughly, portion the sauce into as many containers as you would like or pour some over your favorite noodles.

Remember to tear up some fresh basil to top that sauce before serving.


This sauce freezes well and can be made up to three days before you are ready to use. To reheat, bring sauce to a boil over medium high heat.

Don’t forget to throw in some fresh basil before serving!

If frozen, transfer the sauce from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw over night. Make sure you use a freezer safe container, I don’t suggest using the glass jars you see pictured here as a freezing vessel.

By the way, my sauce won the challenge!!

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