We are a household that loves pasta. While browsing through the Serious Eats website, we came across this slow-cooked tomato sauce recipe by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. Truthfully, we were a bit intimated as it requires 4+ hours of cooking in the oven. We decided to give it a try the following weekend since all of Kenji's recipes have been absolutely wonderful and delicious.
For our version of the recipe, we've made a few changes from Kenji's:
- We first brown 2lbs of ground beef, then transfer to a container until the very end when we mix it together
- We omit the fish sauce because I'm not a fan of fish/seafood (I'm sorry!)
- We use 4 28oz cans of no-salt added crushed tomatoes instead of whole-peeled tomatoes that we crush ourselves.
- Instead of reserving 3 cups of the hand crushed tomatoes for the end and getting another dish dirty, we set aside 1 28oz can for the end.
- Additionally, we blend all of the veggies together instead of scooping them out for extra nutrition and taste.
If you want to make this sauce vegetarian, omit the ground beef. If you want to make this sauce vegan and Whole30 friendly, omit the butter and use slightly more olive oil. If you're following Whole30 or Keto, pair the sauce with spiralized zucchini!
Our favorite is to pair this sauce with rigatoni and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Yummy. Once you're done with dinner, you can freeze the leftover sauce for later. While it does take some time to cook away in the oven, it's pretty hands off during that time and well worth the wait! Love that the dish only requires one pot!
More of a pesto person, be sure to check out our delicious basil pesto recipe!
Let's get started!
Gather and Prep Ingredients
Preheat the oven to 325°F as you're prepping the ingredients. Take out all but one of the oven racks (you'll want the rack on the lowest setting so there's room for the pot).
Brown Ground Beef
I like to buy the 85% lean ground beef. Once the beef is cooked through, I drain the fat out and put the beef in a container that I leave in the fridge. You only need to add the beef for the last 15 minutes.
Make Infused Oil
The garlic cooks pretty quickly so you'll want to make sure you've already crushed the tomatoes ahead of time so the garlic doesn't burn. I recommend cooking the garlic and spices for no more than 30-40 seconds on a medium heat.
To make this vegan and Whole30 friendly, omit the butter and add ¼ cup of olive oil instead.
Add canned tomatoes and vegetables
You're going to only use 3 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes at this point. Bring to a simmer, then take off heat.
A note about canned tomatoes... Kenji Lopez-Alt uses San Marzano whole-peeled tomatoes. We used to as well but we found:
- They're much more expensive;
- Crushing them by hand adds extra time; and
- We didn't notice a significant difference from regular crushed tomatoes.
Since we're a low-sodium household, our preference is to use no salt added crushed tomatoes. However, if you prefer, you can hand-crush (or use an immersion blender) San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes to follow the original recipe more closely
Place Pot in Oven
Our favorite is using our Lodge dutch oven pot since we can use it on the stovetop and in the oven. We cooked this sauce in the oven for 4 hours.
Blend Vegetables Together, Then Add Beef
Make sure to blend the vegetables into the sauce before you add the ground beef (if using).
Top with grated parmesan cheese
Our favorite pasta to pair this sauce with is rigatoni, though we've also made this with spaghetti and loved it.
Freeze leftover sauce in Souper Cubes®
Typically, this recipe will yield 11-12 cups of sauce (depending on how long you slow-cook it in the oven). We tend to use 3-4 cups of sauce for a bag of dry pasta.