Winter Red Sauce Recipe

When I was doing my graduate studies on the Mediterranean Diet, I lived in southern Italy and, of course, fell in love with the flavours of the region. Finding a recipe to give me that same flavour back home in Alberta was remarkably challenging, but after a few years of experimenting, I eventually landed on this recipe, tweaked from a recipe from Kenji Lopez-Alt. 

I make a big batch and freeze it in one cup portions, and it is ready to be a twenty-minute meal. Put a pot of salted water on to boil and pop the ice cube of Red Sauce into a separate saucepan, on its own or with some spicy italian sausage. By the time the sauce is bubbling, the pasta is cooked and the two are ready to serve. 

I have italicized everything here that I grow in the garden. So this recipe is heavily loaded with smugness and frugality as well as flavour. I start two San Marzano seedlings every year JUST for this recipe!

Those slow hours in the oven turn this humble prairie produce into memories of Capri.


  • Large bag of frozen tomatoes thawed and peeled (or four 28oz cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup EVOO or canola oil
  • 4 tsp butter
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 fresh stem of basil
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (skip this if you want to keep it vegetarian, but the fish sauce is magical)
  • ½ minced parsley and/or basil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Crush the tomatoes by hand and set three cups aside in the fridge for finishing.
  3. Put the oil and butter into a large dutch oven over medium-low heat.
  4. Mince eight garlic cloves and add them to the oil and butter, but don’t let them brown.
  5. Add pepper flakes and dried oregano. Stir for one minute.
  6. Cut the carrot into large chunks (you’ll fish them out later), then add it and the crushed tomatoes to the pot. 
  7. Peel the onion, cut it in half and add it to the mix.
  8. Add the stem and leaves of basil.
  9. Add salt and pepper. 
  10. Bring to a simmer.
  11. Put it in the oven with the lid slightly ajar and let it work its magic.
  12. Go do something else. This will take a while.
  13. When reduced by half (5 hours), pull the carrot, onion, and basil stems out.
  14. Add reserved tomato and fish sauce.
  15. Stir and enjoy!