easy easy tomato sauce

The thing they don’t tell you about living alone is that you end up eating most of your meals by yourself or with the cashier at a fast food restaurant. (The drive-through clerk at the Maryland Avenue Checkers and I were on a first-name basis until the milkshake machine broke.)

I miss how my college roommate and I would, like, make microwave nachos on a Saturday afternoon and just go to town on them. It’s not that I couldn’t make nachos for myself, and it’s not like there’d be anyone to judge me for finishing the plate, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Consequently, I find myself struggling to feed myself meals that meet the following qualifications:

  1. Don’t take too much effort or make too much of a mess. It’s just for me, for crying out loud.
  2. Can be made in regular-size batches, with leftovers that will keep well for work lunches.
  3. Are tasty and at least slightly more healthy than Checkers.

One of my new favorites is this recipe for tomato sauce, which is adapted from Cooks Illustrated’s penne alla vodka recipe. The penne alla vodka is delicious as it is, but the basic tomato sauce recipe (cutting out the vodka and the cream — I know, the good stuff) is my new go-to.

I’ll make a batch of it on a Monday night and use it throughout the week — with penne and spinach, with rigatoni and basil, or as a pizza sauce. Best of all, it involves only a few ingredients and one pan. You do need a food processor or a small blender or basically anything that can puree. Alicia Silverstone’s mouth? No, don’t do that. That’s gross.

Easy Tomato Sauce

1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup onion, chopped small
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 minced garlic cloves
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes (or more if that’s your thing)

  1. Chop the garlic and the onion first, lest you regret it later.
  2. Use a fork to lift the tomatoes out of the can one by one, leaving as much liquid in the can as possible. (Save the liquid.) Put half of the tomatoes in your food processor and half on a cutting board. Puree the ones in the food processor until smooth, and cut the other ones up to your preferred chunk size. (A good chunky dice is what I usually do.) You want a total of 2 cups of tomatoes for the sauce — use the puree and the chunks first, and if you need more, use the liquid in the can.
  3. Heat oil in a large pan over medium. Add onion, tomato paste, and garlic, and cook until onions are taking on color and garlic is softening. Add the red pepper flakes and stir.
  4. Add the two cups of tomatoes and stir, then cook for about 5 minutes, or until hot.

So easy! And, when you think about it, this costs about the same amount of money as a can of Prego. (A jumbo can of whole tomatoes runs me about $2.25. A steal.)