Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce

Have you ever just craved homemade spaghetti sauce, but didn’t want to go all out cooking something complicated?

Well, I made some tonight in twenty minutes.

It’s so easy.

I started making this when I was an unpaid intern living in Boston. It was my first time on my own and I cooked for myself most nights. We rarely had jarred tomato or spaghetti sauce when I was a kid, so instead I ventured out and made my own. This is a great recipe if you’re new to cooking. Seriously, so easy.

So first, gather your ingredients.

Yep.  That’s it. You need a can of tomato sauce, a can of tomato paste, minced onion, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and sugar.

Now, I grew up in a family where we pulled 400 bulbs of garlic out of our garden every summer, so using the dried garlic isn’t my preference, I really like having it fresh, the flavor is much more intense. However on the flip side, I have always hated onion, so the minced onion erases my hated of the texture. It’s all about preference, and sometimes, shelf life. Fresh goes bad, the dried stuff lasts longer.

Ok, so once you have your ingredients together, get out a saucepan and put it on medium. I tried something new and put the onion and garlic in the pan with some Pam spray.

I let it cook until I can hear it sizzling and I can smell the herbs. I didn’t put enough in the pan and ended up adding more later, but I think releasing the flavors made a more aromatic sauce.

After your garlic and onion smells amazing, add the tomato sauce and paste to the pan.

Tomato paste is kind of a weird texture, but it thickens the sauce. I didn’t use it the first few times and the sauce stays pretty watery. The paste thickens it up and makes it that familiar spaghetti sauce texture. Let the mixture heat and stir it until it’s a smooth consistency.

Next, add sugar. When I first found out that you put sugar into tomato sauce I was weirded out. It didn’t seem right. But the sugar counteracts the acidity of the tomato. I like my sauce sweet, so I use a good amount of sugar.

I love sweet sauce. I used more sugar than this. And this, the seasoning, is where I need to dispel one of the biggest myths of cooking. Don’t taste it while you’re cooking because it’s not done so it won’t taste right. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. TASTE IT. TASTE IT CONSTANTLY.

Think about the ingredient you’re adding. In this case, it’s sugar. So I sprinkle it on to cover the top of the sauce, stir it in, and then I taste it. It wasn’t sweet enough so I added more. Start with a little bit and add more and more until it tastes the way you want it to.

Now the same with the Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Add a little, stir it, and taste. I go light on the salt and pepper and add enough Italian seasoning so it’s a solid influence on the taste. I like using Italian Seasoning because it’s a blend of the major spices and you can use one instead of having to find a bottle of marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil. Let me tell you, in my rural area, there’s no Savory. I’ve looked. Do the same method that I suggested with the sugar. Add a little, then taste. Do this until it tastes the way you want it. This is where I added more onion and garlic since I didn’t get enough at the beginning.

Heat the sauce through, taste it to make sure it’s how you want it, and you’re done.

Seriously. Already.

Yummy. We had our sauce on spaghetti with some frozen meatballs I baked in the oven while I made my sauce and the noodles boiled. Next to it is a bagged salad with Kings Hawaiian Croutons (which are amazing by the way).

This recipe makes a lot of sauce, I put most of it in a plastic container in my fridge to use for other recipes. Heck, sometimes we’ll dip pizza into it like marinara.


Easy Salmon en Croute

Sounds fancy, right?!

Now, if you’re not a huge fan of fish, I highly recommend you try salmon or a tuna steak, and cook them properly. I grew up eating baked haddock and cod and would be content to never have it again. But I love a nice piece of salmon.

I grew up on the east coast where fresh salmon is not only available, but frequently went on sale. I loved going to get a pound of salmon when it was half off and just pan frying it with a spritz of lime.

Then I moved to Iowa. Now, Iowa is a landlocked state, so fresh seafood is a logistical improbability. And it never goes on sale. I’m on a budget here, so spending $13.99 on a pound of salmon is just not practical. I tried frozen, wasn’t impressed. So I gave up on having a nice piece of salmon unless I was back east visiting my family. But then on a shopping trip I spied a piece of fresh salmon sitting on a shelf with a sale tag. And where did I find this glorious surprise? Walmart. And was it the best salmon I’ve had in the Midwest? You bet it was.

Since this discovery I’m always checking out the fish section at Walmart and they have a surprisingly nice selection of fresh fish that will go on clearance when it’s close to the “best by” date. It fits my budget and satisfies that craving I get every now and again.

One way I always wanted to try salmon was “en croute” which means it is baked into a pastry crust. So I headed over to the frozen aisle where the baked items were and grabbed a package of Pillsbury puff pastry.

Now, traditional salmon en croute has a creamed spinach filling, but I was looking for an easy version of the recipe. I went home and used a can of pesto instead. It’s so flaky and so delicious, I’m so happy with this recipe.

Easy Salmon en Croute

Cook Time: Approximately 1 hour

Servings: 2


1 lb fresh or defrosted salmon

1 sheet of puff pastry – defrosted

2-3 Tblsp. Pesto



Extra Virgin Olive Oil



Preheat oven to 350˚

Unfold puff pastry onto a clean surface. If necessary, use rolling pin to make it large enough to wrap around your piece of salmon (depending on size and shape of the fish).

Take salmon and pat it down with a piece of paper towel to reduce liquid, if any. Salt and pepper the fish. Take spoonfuls of pesto and spread it along the pink side of the fish (not the skin) in a nice thick layer.

Place fish onto the center of the puff pastry, pesto side down. Wrap the puff pastry around the fish, opposite sides in.

Flip folded side down onto a greased baking sheet. Use a knife to scour lines into the top of the pocket. Lightly oil the top of the pocket for baking.

Place in your preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. The top of the pastry will be browned.

Cut in half and serve!

Sides: For my meal we had a simple side of salad, but any steamed vegetable would go great with this meal. No need for any grain or carb. To make it a “one pot” meal, you can add your vegetable inside the pouch; I definitely recommend asparagus cut to size.