Transforming Simple Ingredients Into Something Special

By on March 1, 2012

By Jennifer Cote, Chef at The New Deli, Pinole, CA –

Thankfully, life is full of celebrations. Things could get pretty mundane if we didn’t have to come up with a nice dinner for guests now and then. We might continue on with our standard recipes and never try anything new!

When I made Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce for our granddaughter’s fifth birthday, it wasn’t anything new for our household. But when my friend asked for the recipe after our meal, I realized I shouldn’t take even tomato sauce for granted. (It really is a good recipe!)

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I’ve been experimenting with sauce-making since I was a teen-ager. With the original tomato sauce recipe I made back in the seventies, I added all the ingredients according to the recipe, and discovered the bottom of the pot could easily scorch if I didn’t stir the sauce quite often. By adding the tomato paste at the end of the cooking time, the brew is more liquid during the simmering stage; it requires less stirring at that point than when it gets thicker.

A good tomato sauce can make the meal. Add whole-grain pasta to make it extra healthy. I love how such simple, inexpensive ingredients can become so delicious. Even onions, which can bring tears to the one peeling it: When sautéed, the natural sweetness of the onion develops. The Israelites were bemoaning their diet of manna; Numbers 11:5 recalls them saying, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.”

We shouldn’t take anything for granted, not even a simple sauce made with common ingredients. When bread is broken among loved ones, and a meal comes together, it really is something to celebrate!

Tomato Sauce

Use this in Mostaccioli, Lasagna, Moussaka, Tomato Bisque Soup, etc. One advantage of this recipe: it doesn’t easily scorch. Some recipes require a lot of stirring, but as the juicy tomatoes boil down, the sauce suddenly thickens, and the pan burns as well! This is avoided by adding tomato paste last. The onion-garlic mix still needs to be stirred occasionally, but doesn’t take too much attending to. Makes 2-3 qts.


  • 6 c. (2 lb.) fine-chopped onion
  • 8-10 garlic cloves (1/4 c.), minced
  • 1 1/2 lb. carrots, cut in chunks
  • 1/4 c. olive oil1 c. red wine (or 1/2 c. red wine vinegar)
  • 8 oz. can tomato paste
  • 2- 28 oz. cans chunk tomatoes (almost 2 quarts)
  • 1/2 TBS. salt
  • 1/2 TBS. pepper
  • 2 TBS. dry basil

Sauté in a med. skillet with lid on: > 6 c. (2 lb.) fine-chopped onion > 8-10 garlic cloves (1/4 c.), minced > 1/4 c. olive oil

Stir occasionally, over med. high heat. Turn burner down as the onions soften. Next add to the onion skillet: > 1 c. red wine (or 1/2 c. red wine vinegar)

While onion/garlic mix simmers, cook until tender in just a bit of water: > 1 1/2 lb. carrots, cut in chunks

Pour the cooking liquid off of the cooked carrots, into the onion mix. Process the cooked carrots in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Turn the onion mix up again to let the liquids boil off some, stirring occasionally.

Last of all, add the cooked, processed carrots to a large bowl or pot, mixing in the remaining ingredients: > 8 oz. can tomato paste > 2- 28 oz. cans chunk tomatoes (almost 2 quarts) > 1/2 TBS. salt > 1/2 TBS. pepper > 2 TBS. dry basil > the sautéed onion mixture

Freeze pint containers of this if not using it all right away. Sauce will keep a month or so refrigerated, longer if frozen.


Jennifer Cote, with husband Tom, opened The New Deli in Pinole, CA in 1985. Her cookbook, “From the Land of Milk and Honey”, is available at the shop, and online. More recipes, plus a lunch and catering menu, can be found at Comments, questions? Email Jennifer at [email protected].

About Jennifer Cote

Jennifer's love of cooking with natural ingredients is inspired by the organic garden she's cultivated for over 25 years. A cutting garden provides flowers for The New Deli Cafe, an herb garden lends herbs for culinary creations, and twenty-some fruit and nut trees are scattered throughout her fairly urban back yard. New Deli compost keeps the garden flourishing, as Jen and her family carry on the family business, established in 1985. A blessed grandmother, mother, and wife, Jen gets much joy from sharing recipes (and perhaps an occasional basket of figs or platter of home-baked goodies).


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Transforming Simple Ingredients Into Something Special