Skip to content

Sunday Gravy – The Tomato Sauce Base

In Part 1 of our Sunday Gravy Experiment, I introduced you to the basic plan of creating a rich tomato sauce that will, over time, be fortified and enriched by having various meats and vegetables cooked in it for a  series of different meals. In Part 2 of the series,  I made a rich stock using pork hocks and beef bones and this will form the beginnings of the gravy itself. If you wish to follow along with the process but don’t really want to bother with making your own stock, you can always substitute a commercial chicken broth, but I think you will find the homemade really improves the final product.

In either event, it is now time to move on to making the actual tomato sauce…

The Ingredients

  • 4 x 28oz cans of Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 quart rich meat stock (not shown)
  • 2 cups Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 head Garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
  • 1 pint Red Wine
  • 1 tsp. ground Black Pepper
  • 1 – 2 tsp. Salt (or to taste)

In many recipes for tomato sauce, you will see other flavorings such as oregano, or thyme being added. However, for now, I want to keep the basic sauce as simple and generic as possible.

The Method

The first step will allow me to introduce two Italian cooking terms which may not be familiar to you: these are ‘Battuto’ and ‘Soffritto’. The battuto has an interesting culinary history but, in modern parlance, it generally is constituted by what is known in French cookery as a ‘Mirepoix’, and consists of finely chopped onion, celery and carrot, with garlic usually being added as well. Once this mélange is sautéed in some fat or other, it is then known as a soffritto and is a common flavor for many Italian dishes. Olive oil or butter are often used, but for this experiment, I will be using the tasty fat rendered from Pork Belly Confit experiment from not long ago.

To begin, melt your fat in a deep pot over moderate heat and then add the onions first. Sauté until they are translucent, but not browned, and then add the carrot. When this has softened slightly add the celery. Continue to sauté until the celery is soft as well and then add the garlic, the pepper and a generous pinch or two of salt.

Once the garlic has softened and you can smell the aroma, add the stock, the tomatoes and the wine. Bring this to a low boil and then turn down the heat, cover, and allow to simmer gently for one to two hours.

Once the sauce has cooked sufficiently and all the vegetables are broken down, you need to blend it to a smooth consistency. In a food processor, this will be a bit of a chore, so, if you have one, I recommend using an immersion blender. Once you have done this, you will need to continue simmering, this time uncovered, until the sauce reduces somewhat and takes on a consistency a little thicker than that of a commercial tomato soup. The time for this will vary depending on the initial fluidity, but an hour or two should suffice.

Here you can see a sample of the reduced sauce. For now, I will just be putting the whole batch into the fridge to await the next step in the project and to allow the flavors to develop. Since the whole point of this exercise is to see how long we can extend this sauce it will be necessary, from time to time, to reheat the sauce, even when it is not being used for a specific meal, so as to prevent it from going off. About once or twice a week will be necessary, and I will be keeping a running record of these operations as the experiment progresses.

Since Originally writing this post, I continued the project with the following preparations using the ‘Gravy’:

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. love this process and did not know about reheating to keep it “extended” – oh the things I learn–I will stay tuned

    October 15, 2012
  2. I learned the re-heating idea from books about Chinese ‘Master’ sauces….

    October 15, 2012
  3. sowninpeace #

    oh how i want to go eeeekkkk….but since i I had a crazy german culinary master in my last year of school i know that with out the meat protien in it (which is a low ph food)….it should be relitivly easy to extend…but canning tomato sauce is easy too….boil you jars and lids and fill clean with hot sauce, clean up mess , lid and boil filled jars….cool until you hear the pop of the seals…voila extended sauce…and a lot less of a chance – off ness. But since its an experament ….good luck i guess , not really sure what ppl say to scientists lol

    October 15, 2012
    • Actually, by extending, I don’t mean storing for later use. The focus of this excercise is to keep the same volume of sauce going by continually adding to it as it is depleted so that layers of different flavors develop over time…

      October 15, 2012
  4. I “boat motor” my tomatoes in advance. I can my own tomatoes so they are in bigger chunks. I always hold back some of the gravy and freeze to add to new gravy, but so far, haven’t done more than three generations of the gravy. Taking a cue from the Chinese about the master sauce is a great idea. I’m looking forward to the ongoing Gravy Experiment.

    October 15, 2012
    • Did meatballs and sausage several days ago (post coming)… started a slow simmering pork shoulder today 🙂

      October 15, 2012
  5. A little better than the jar variety, eh? 🙂 It looks so good I can almost smell it!

    October 15, 2012
  6. Looks lovely… very rich sauce.

    October 16, 2012
  7. Nice! I love starting tomato sauces with mirepoix. I don’t use a blender though . . . I just cook it down like crazy and run my gas bill up!

    October 17, 2012
    • God … I’d *kill* to be able to cook with gas!

      October 18, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Sunday Gravy Experiment Part 4- Meatballs and Sausages | Sybaritica

Comments, thoughts or suggestions most welcome...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Meet & Eats

The food that I've had the pleasure of meeting and eating.

Uncle Grumpy's Playroom

Current events, humor, science, religion, satire

Food Travel Lover

走过的地方 尝过的美食 留下的回忆

The Odd Pantry

Essays on food

Reputable Sources

Organizing ferments since 2013

that Other Cooking Blog

. food . photo . sous vide .


My Virtual Cookbook to Share My Love and Joy of Food and Cooking One Recipe at a Time

lola rugula

my journey of cooking, gardening, preserving and more

Yummy Lummy

I cook, photograph and eat food with the occasional restaurant review!

Eye Of the Beholder

A pair of eternally curious eyes and a camera...Life is beautiful.

gluten free zen

Taking The Stress Out Of Gluten-Free Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Living

Clayton's Kitchen

Big flavors and fun cooking from a cubbyhole kitchen

Bunny Eats Design

Happy things, tasty food and good design


Dentist chef, just a dentistry student who practice the dentist's cooking recipes in a dentist's kitchen

Mad Dog TV Dinners

Guess what's coming to dinner?


Real Food & Real Opinions

Bento Days

Making bentos for kids

Garden to Wok

Fresh and tasty!

Bam's Kitchen

Healthy World Cuisine

Trang Quynh

everyone is special in their own way :)

Farm to Table Asian Secrets

Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season


If people say that life is too short to drink bad wine, it means also that life is too short to eat crappy food!

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

The Unorthodox Epicure

Confessions of an Aspiring Food Snob

The 好吃 Challenge

1 girl, 273 days, 100 recipes


a recipe sharing and bento blog


Just another site

The Food Nazi

Never try to eat more than you can lift

Expat Chef in Barcelona

From my kitchen to yours

Keeping Up With the Holsbys

a journey into my head and my pantry

Nurul's Culinary Adventures

I Love Food, the Universe and Everything!!


home-cooking recipes, restaurant reviews, International cuisine ,

Naked Vegan Cooking

Body-positive Vegan Goodness

Bites of Food History

Sharing my Experimental Archaeology of Food

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

Cooking, food, wine


A Journey About Food, Recipes And Destinations


Fresh, exciting and adventurous food journey

One Man's Meat

Multi-award winning food blog, written in Dublin, Ireland.

%d bloggers like this: