Pasta makes an easy and quick meal: Just cook the noodles, add a jar of spaghetti sauce and serve. But before you reach for that jar of prepared tomato sauce or barbecue (BBQ) sauce, consider this. Homemade sauce is easy to make and easy to store. You can control the flavor, salt and fat content when you make your own sauces, and you can customize the flavors by adding herbs and spices.
The Staple: Tomato Sauce
A basic tomato sauce can be used as the foundation to many other homemade sauces, including pizza sauce, BBQ sauce and tomato soup. Spaghetti sauces can be cooked in as little as minutes or as long as all day, depending on how complex you’d like the flavor to be and how much time you have available.
To make a basic spaghetti sauce, you’ll need:
- 2 bulbs of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 10 pounds canned or fresh tomatoes
- 2 small cans tomato paste
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon each of basil, marjoram and oregano.
Sautee the garlic in the olive oil until soft and fragrant. Add all other ingredients and simmer uncovered on low heat until the sauce reaches a consistency you like and the tomatoes are soft. This can take anywhere between 2 and 6 hours, depending on your preferences. If you’re in a hurry, use very ripe tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes and simmer all ingredients in a covered pan for 30 minutes. Your tomatoes will retain their shape and your sauce will have a fresh, bright flavor.
Freeze the sauce you won’t eat right away in labeled containers. You can also turn tomato sauce into BBQ sauce for grilling. Add the following ingredients to 1 cup of tomato sauce to make BBQ sauce:
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Add pepper, brown sugar or chili powder to adjust the taste of your barbecue sauce to your liking. Allow the BBQ sauce to cool in the refrigerator overnight, to allow the flavors to blend and meld.
Adjusting Homemade Sauce Recipes
Simple adjustments you can make to homemade sauces, including fatty sauces like alfredo sauce, can decrease fat and salt content. For example, when making alfredo sauce, choose lowfat cheeses and milk. Your alfredo sauce will taste just as good, but will contain significantly less fat. Other suggestions include:
- Replace salt with spices or herbs whenever you can.
- Cool meat sauces in the refrigerator and skim off the fat before serving.
- Thicken your sauces, if needed, with flour rather than by adding grease or fat.
If you simply do not have the time to make your own sauces, look for store brands labeled “low in salt,” “low in fat” or “low in calories.” Don’t be afraid to heat up the sauces to boil away extra water, and add your own herbs and spices to make the sauce more flavorful.