Adventures in the Kitchen with Michelle, Spicy Pasta Sauce

Summer means tomatoes, and even though summers gone. Here, in FL we grow tomatoes – beautiful Ruskin reds that are fantastic. Problem is, you can’t buy them in a grocery store. Yes, that’s right. We have, available for purchase, pre-packaged Tennessee, or Canadian, or Mexican tomatoes. Really? Or the ones that look good, but have whitish flesh that tastes slightly better than cardboard. Then there are the plum tomatoes, that used to be the best tasting, until the stores found out we liked them and started selling them nearly green. That’s ok, I know where those yummy tomatoes went – the farmers market. Oh, yeah. I can’t resist a $3.00 basket of the lovelies. And yes, at times even they’re from somewhere else. Usually they’re the ones with a blemish or two, and that need to be eaten now,…that’s good because I want to eat them,…NOW.

So, I found myself with an overload of that summer goodness…I can’t eat them all in salads! I do love a tomato sandwich, I will confess. I also remember a sauce that my favorite Italian restaurant used to make. It was a spicy marinara, that I’d ask for a little extra and take home. It was so good – Fresh tasting. I’d chill it and use it as a salad dressing. Well, that restaurant was sold and the new owners promptly ran it into the ground. *sigh* But wait – I have plenty of ‘matoes to do it myself. Although, sauce (aka; Sundaygravy) takes days to makes, doesn’t it? After spotting a recipe on the Food & Wine site, by Grace Parisi (why doesn’t she have her own cookbook!?), I knew it could be done – and soooo easy ! 

Come on – I’ll show you.

Spicy Pasta Sauce Step 1

Step 1:

Gather up those tomatoes, about 2 #.

1/2 cup Sweet Onion, sliced thin (Vidailia’s are good, but I had a sweet red one)

3 Tbl Good Olive Oil

2 Garlic cloves, large ones, sliced thin

1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper

Salt to taste

1 Tbl Fresh Basil, minced

Spicy Pasta Sauce Step 2

Step 2:

Peel the tomatoes. Yes, peel them – there’s trick to this. Very old, and very simple. Since I have newbie cooks reading, I’ll show you…

Get some water boiling. Cut an X at the bottom of each tomato.

Spicy Pasta Sauce, STep 3

Step 3:

Get the fruit (yes, tomatoes are a fruit) into the boiling water. Get another bowl of water set out with ice in it (an ice water bath). 

Spicy Pasta Sauce Step 4

Step 4:

After about 30 seconds – a minute, scoop them out of the boiling cauldron and get them into the ice water bath. This stops the cooking process and loosens the skin. 

Yes, you can save the boiling water for the pasta to follow. (waste not!)

Spicy Pasta Sauce, Step 5

Step 5:

Now, slip the tomatoes out of their jackets and cut them into quarters. Using another bowl, and the strainer, push out the seeds into the strainer and coarsely chop the flesh.

Spicy Pasta Sauce, Step 5a

Step 5a:

Use a spoon to push all the juice through the stainer and toss those seeds.

Step 6

Step 6:

Slice those onions and mince that garlic. For my newbie cooks, note how far back on the knife this garlic is. Garlic is tiny and so strong it’s always cut up small. You’ll have more control, and be in need of less band-aids, if you choke up on the knife and use the hilt (handle) area.

Spicy Pasta Sauce, STep 7

Step 7:

Saute the onions, crushed red pepper flakes a bit then add the garlic. OMG – can you smell that?!


Step 8:

Toss in the tomatoes and simmer for maybe 20 minutes, add the salt to taste (keep it light). Add the basil last to keep it fresh. That’s about all the time needed to make the pasta and a salad…get going…I’m hungry!

Spicy Pasta Sauce, Finale


That’s it ! This really only took me about a half hour (without stopping to take pics!). This may seem like a pain with the peeling of the tomatoes and everything, but once you taste it – you’ll never forget the flavor. So simple – like summer should be.

Add a little grilled turkey sausage on the side and it’s a healthy dinner for everyone.

Finale 2

After spending years of opening jars for pasta night, this is a whole other animal ! 



But wait – remember how I said I’d use the restaurant marinara sauce as a salad dressing? Oh, yeah…

After using it as a pizza sauce – which was awesome ! – the leftovers were run thru the Magic Bullet and bottled.


It’s a summer treasure. I’ll reserve the store bought jars for winter and await another round of hot weather happiness. 


Michelle @

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