Easy Tomato Sauce for Pasta and Picky Eaters

Every person knows one. A picky eater. I used to be one (except overripe bananas, oysters, octopus and Marmite are still problematic).  I’m married to a picky eater (no nuts in his food). I am friends with one (no onions except red onions). I work with one (tomato sauce without bits of things in it).

It’s my co-worker who has inspired this post for a simple pasta sauce that doesn’t have chunks or bits. I thought posting this might help suffering spouses, parents, and friends of picky eaters create a homemade pasta sauce bursting with flavour but without scary chunky bits that will terrorize the picky eater.

This recipe also happens to be my regular week-night go to for its simplicity, flexibility and speed. Once you have the ingredients on hand, you can whip this tomato sauce up in the time it takes to open a store-bought jar and heat it up.


What You Will Need:

1 can (28 fl oz) Italian peeled tomatoes
1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp garlic granules or powder
1 tsp onion powder
1.5 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp chili flakes
1/4 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

To make the sauce:

Glug the olive oil in a pot or pan. Add the can of tomatoes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Heat it up until it bubbles. I whiz it up until it is smooth using an immersion blender. You can do the whizzing when the sauce is still cold, or when it’s hot. It just doesn’t matter.

Too easy, right?

The joy of this recipe is you can change it however you like. Don’t like fennel? Don’t put it in. Like more heat? Add more chili flakes! Looking for low fat? Eliminate the olive oil. Looking for a rose sauce? Add a few glugs of cream. Wants something more rustic? Don’t blend it. Don’t have Italian Seasoning? Add dried basil and oregano.

The sauce works well with any pasta and protein. My favourite is Italian Sausage. While the sauce is burbling on the stove, I’ll cook up a package of Italian sausage. When it’s done, I slice it thinly, mix it in with the tomato sauce and the cooked pasta, and cover generously in grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Our other protein favourite is chicken breasts. While the sauce is burbling, put chicken breasts in a big bowl. Add about a tbsp of olive oil, juice of half a lemon, a generous sprinkling of Italian seasoning. Toss till covered. Set oven to 350F. When the oven is ready, place the chicken breasts on a piece of parchment paper in a pan (I use an old Corning casserole dish) and place in the oven for 30 minutes. When it’s done, take it out and serve the breast whole, or sliced thinly. It just doesn’t matter.


The important thing to take away from this post, is that this is The Most Flexible Tomato Sauce In the World.

If you can’t find Italian peeled tomatoes use any can of whole, strained or diced tomatoes.

If you poo-poo spices from the cupboard, go right ahead and chop and saute an onion and smashed garlic. Roll and julienne that fresh basil. Pick and rub that fresh thyme, marjoram and oregano.

Add good music, a few candles and a bottle of wine, and instantly you go from hurried weeknight dinner to a super cool, laid back evening.

I hope you give this recipe a try. I’d like to hear about your experience and/or your favourite tomato sauces!


Blog-on-ese Sauce 2.0

Warning. Ladies underthings are discussed in this here post. Proceed with caution.

Happy and bit concerned that my blog has been around long enough that I’m officially repeating myself. Back in 2010 I posted this family treasure of a recipe for spaghetti sauce. I thought I was clever calling it a blog-on-ese sauce seeing as I write a blog and it is a meat based sauce for pasta after all. Oh yes. It’s a side slapper. Blog-on-ese. HA HA. (pause). Hm. I seem to be the only one laughing. (shrugs and carries on).

Well, today with the howling wind outside and the (in-the-back-of-my-mind) threat of our building cracking and tipping over into the river valley below, along with my moment of drama in a change room earlier in the day, I thought an ambient lit and musical evening sipping on a hoity-toity wine and simmering a hearty meat sauce for supper would be the right thing to do…what? What drama? You didn’t hear?

Friends, today I was out shopping and on a whim thought I would try on a few bras. I am a creature of habit and lean towards those types of bras that are all about comfort, jiggle room and pretty colours. Wires, padding and itchy lace make me think of this sort of contraption:

1882-corset.ad_dI would like to point out her arms are in the air simply because she cannot lower them.

Whilst shopping, I pulled a few blouses to try on that are uncharacteristically transparent, frilly and girly for me, and in order to wear them, I would also need to own a bra that is not black, a leopard print, fushia or turquoise. So I wander over to the bra section, and since my favourite type isn’t available in flesh-tone, I pull off a few with under-wires and extra padding.

I am unconcerned, because I’ve been down this road before, and never, not once, had a problem trying on a bra. Well…..

I enter my change room remove boots, shirt, shoes, socks (because standing around nearly nude in socks is silly IMHO), and finally deftly remove my Old Reliable bra. I pick up Wired Flesh Tone, and do the usual thing, put it on backwards, clip it together, spin it around my torso, and put one arm through the strap. The too tight strap…..

At this point, a “normal” person would take the bra off, loosen the arm straps, and start again. Not me. I bend my other arm, pleased I didn’t need to dislocate my shoulder, and insert it the other arm hole. I look in the mirror. I have two bra cups supporting my double chin, and the girls swinging free below. You could, if you listened, hear them sing Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.

Undeterred at this point, I try to extract myself. My arms are held in place by the straps. I cannot reach around behind me to unsnap as I usually would. My body flails like Harry Houdini extracting himself from a straightjacket. I have to stop. I take a few deep breaths. I try again. No luck.

I try pulling the thing over my head. I can hear ripping sounds, so stop immediately. I sit. I Tweet:

Clerk knocks at the door, “How’s everything going in there?”. I respond, “I am trying on a pair of slacks, and need another size, can you check and see if you have it for me please?”. She says sure, and wanders away. I sit there and marvel at how I could not admit that I was trapped in one of their bras. She returns happily hanging a new pair of slacks over the door, and leaving saying “Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with”. I say a chipper “I will, thanks!”.

I return to my task. With a great deal of pain and elastic stretching to its maximum, I count to five and just pull the thing over my head. Face red, hair a mess, panting slightly and a little damp, pack up the whole “shopping for clothes” idea and go home.

So here we are. Candles lit. Favourite music playing. Blog-on-ese Sauce 2.0 simmering on the stove, and sharing a delicious 2010 French red.

And the sauce? Well, this particular one is:

1 lb (ish) lean ground beef (Costco purchase, I take the stuff by handfuls and put it in freezer bags, so I have no idea how much I use).
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 head garlic, roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 can D.O.P. tomatoes
Generous glugs of said 2010 French red wine

Simmer until you can’t stand it any longer. Serve over your favourite pasta. Generously grate Parmigiano-Reggiano over top.

Friday at our Place

What. A. Week. A confidence shared. Embarrassment.  Spilled my full-to-the-top water bottle all over my keyboard, mouse, telephone, pants, floor. All while trying to be professional during a telephone call. Not sure that a screamed “OH CRAP” (*whispered: I actually screamed OH SHIT but someone I work with might be reading this, so oh crap is my official statement*) is professional, but thankfully person on the other end of the phone had a sense of humour.

In among the little black cloud hanging over my head (if you live in Edmonton, you can see it, just look out your window), there are some things that make all this okay. A co-worker who happens to have a stack of paper towel to soak up the water. Friends who are supporting. Friends who are forgiving. Friends that understand me. Pants that are indestructible. A husband who loves me. Fighter planes flying overhead. A bottle of wine. Crystal that resonates a beautiful ping. And, dare I say it, Matt Monro. I know, I know, he’s not Peter Fox or Massive Attack, my usual fare, but sometimes you need to hear a voice that works on memories of days gone by to get out of a funk.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about supper. Supper! Oh yes, grey skies and a resigned acceptance that I’ll be indoors all evening has inspired a hearty, beefy pasta sauce.

Here’s the ingredients:

Here’s the recipe:

Brown the beef. Chop the organic stuff in small pieces. Add to the beef. Add a generous glug of wine. When nice, add the tomatoes. In another pot. Boil water. Add pasta. Cook. Drain. Add sauce. Grate the best Parmesan cheese you can find**. Drink wine. Dance. Fall asleep on the sofa cozied up with husband.

**One of the things I am so unbelievably grateful for in Edmonton is the Italian Centre Shop.  I cannot say enough nice things about this place. The deli is AMAZING, and they always have that ingredient you need but you can’t find anywhere else. In my pic you can see the the La Povencella whole tomatoes, and the Italissima strained tomatoes. These are standard pantry purchases for us. These tomatoes are delicious. Sexy food because they are Italian. And are sold at a reasonable price. Teresa Spinelli has done an amazing job of continuing her father’s legacy. Frank Spinelli would be very proud indeed.