Basic Italian Tomato Sauce

Makes 3 cups; enough for 1 pound of pasta

This is a great go-to tomato sauce and can be doused over any kind of pasta. If you have it on hand, toss in some fresh basil for a great aroma, and when the sauce is finished, add a little butter to make it more luxurious.From the book "Mad Hungry," by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Artisan Books).


  • 1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 28-ounce can best-quality tomatoes, pulsed in a blender

  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt

  • 1 sprig fresh basil (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)


  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Swirl around the olive oil to coat the pan, and when the oil is hot, add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir constantly for 30 seconds, just long enough to release the garlic's fragrance and transform it slightly from its raw state. Don't cook it to golden.

  2. Raise the heat to high and stir in the tomatoes and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the basil sprig, if using. Remove the basil before serving and swirl in the butter, if using.

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