- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (¾ cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large celery stalk, finely chopped (¾ cup)
- 3 teaspoons salt, divided
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes and their juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Cook olive oil, onion, garlic, celery, and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large saucepan over low heat for 15 minutes, being careful not to brown. This step, called “sweating,” develops layers of flavor and should not be rushed.
- Add oregano and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, being careful not to burn. Tomato paste adds the concentrated flavor you’d get from slow roasting the tomatoes.
- Add tomatoes, their juice, and sugar to the saucepan. With an immersion blender, break down the sauce. (Alternatively, simply crush tomatoes with your hands before adding to the pot).
- With the pot partially covered, simmer the mixture over low heat for 30 minutes. Stir in the remaining salt. Add the butter, stir until melted.
Plus three variations:
- Add a Parmesan rind to the sauce when you’re simmering the tomatoes. Much of it will dissolve, adding a layer of salty cheese flavor. Be sure to discard any rind remains after simmering.
- Stir in one tablespoon of washed capers during Step 1 (the sweating phase), which will add a dash of salty acidity that will brighten and intensify the sauce’s tomato flavor.
- Add a dollop of anchovy paste while stirring in the butter. Available in shelf-stable tubes near the canned fish section of your grocery store, it adds a delightful salty-meaty flavor to foods (not fishiness!).