a peek inside the fishbowl

28 Aug, 2011

The secret’s in the sauce. The spaghetti sauce that is.

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Recipes and Food

Let’s get something out of the way here. Mark doesn’t like my tomato sauce. He really only likes his mom’s spaghetti sauce recipe. And I get that: (a) the man doesn’t really even like tomatoes and (b) it his mom’s recipe (admittedly) is a really good one with lots of meat.

But I like making my own too. I get to use up a whole bunch of fresh, locally-grown tomatoes, which are in steady supply at the market right now. And I also control the salt and everything that goes into it. As a bonus, I’v figured out that making your own tomato sauce is not actually that hard to do. It’d be pretty easy to cooks some up on a Sunday afternoon and set it aside in the fridge for your next night’s dinner and freeze the rest for another time.

Andrea’s fresh tomato spaghetti sauce recipe

You will need:

  • 4 or 5 fresh tomatoes
  • a can of no-salt diced tomatoes (I threw it in because I wanted enough to feed the four of us and have leftovers the next day)
  • olive oil, about 1TB
  • one medium onion, diced
  • two cloves of garlic, minced
  • Italian seasoning
  • a tiny pinch of cinnamon

Begin with the fresh field tomatoes. It doesn’t matter if they’re a little beaten up (this is not a beauty contest!), but they do need to be nice and ripe and have a good tomato smell.

First, you will want to take the skins off. Take a sharp knife and slice a big X along the bottom of each one, just through the skin.

X-marks the spot

Boil them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until the skins start to wrinkle and peel off. Take them out of the water with a large slotted spoon. They’ll look like they’ve been hit with the ugly stick. Tomatoes from Planet Wrinkle!

tomato skins begone!

While you’re waiting for them to cool, chop up the onion. I used a bit of red onion I had leftover, but anything is fine:


… mince the garlic, and sautee it along with the onion in a bit of olive oil. It’ll need about five or six minutes to soften. While that’s going on, core and chop the tomatoes into chunks:

chopped up and ready to go

Throw them into the pot along with the can of tomatoes:

tomato bits optional

Add your spices. In my recent batch I used 1TB of Italian spice mix, a pinch of salt, a bit of pepper, and a pinch of cinnamon (don’t overdo the cinnamon). Cinnamon, as a seasoning, is used quite a bit in Spanish and Moroccan cuisine. I like a bit of it in spaghetti sauce because if adds some je ne sais quoi, but it’s totally optional. You might want to add oregano and more basil, but it’s a personal thing. Tomatoes are cheap this time of year, so experiment!

Simmer until the sauce has reached a desirable consistency. Serve hot, over your pasta of choice, along with a healthy sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper. The freshness of this meal will knock you over, and you’ll love it even more knowing that it didn’t come out of a jar.

p.s. Can you believe I forgot to take a photo of the final dish? I guess I was too hungry. :)

8 Responses to "The secret’s in the sauce. The spaghetti sauce that is."

1 | Stacey K

August 28th, 2011 at 4:22 pm


If you have a bit more time, and the weather isn’t too hot, try oven roasting the tomatoes. Throw them on a cookie sheet whole with the skins on, coat them with olive oil, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put them in the oven at 250F until the skins split and the kitchen smells like tomatoes – a few hours. Then chop them up to make your sauce. This will produce a very different tasting sauce than using the tomatoes fresh.

2 | andrea

August 28th, 2011 at 4:43 pm


Oh, that sounds good. I’m definitely trying that next time. Thank you!

3 | binky

August 28th, 2011 at 9:15 pm


No pinch of sugar? Hm? My recipe is the same except I add a tsp of brown sugar and some fresh basil. And if you want it to really sing…add some whipping cream. Ooooh la la.

4 | javamom

August 29th, 2011 at 1:22 pm


I’m with binky on the sugar although I quit the sugar a long time ago and added a drop (or two) of maple syrup. SERIOUSLY this will take the acidity out of the sauce, add just a hint of that ‘je ne sais quoi’ and if you really want to feel like a superchef, add this drop to the onions and garlic while tossing them in the oil before you add the tomatos.


5 | Carla @ Parentingisms

August 29th, 2011 at 7:59 pm


I’m a big fan of a bit of kosher salt in tomato sauce, I think it really brings out the tomato-ness. And also, love the fresh basil, this are the main things in the sauce that I can every summer and we eat throughout the year. Last year I made 26 pint jars and we had some until March or so. This year I’ve made 8 jars and need to make another 40 or so to last us until next summer it looks like.

In terms of tomatoes I have made sauce with Roma tomatoes and with round tomatoes (what are these called anyway?) and I think the Roma tomatoes win! More tomato depth I think. But a matter of personal taste of course.

6 | andrea

August 30th, 2011 at 9:08 am


The sugar is supposed to cut down on the acidity of the tomato but I don’t want to add it. :) I’ve been told the cinnamon does the same. I’m definitely trying the maple syrup! Yum!
Also: fresh basil is a must!

7 | binki

August 30th, 2011 at 12:08 pm


Maple syrup is sugar. ;-)

8 | A giant list of DIY recipes: maybe you’ll find a new thing to make? >> a peek inside the fishbowl

November 12th, 2012 at 2:00 pm


[…] Spaghetti/pasta sauce (A lot of you said you make your own! Share your recipes!) This is one of my faves. […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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