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Hearty Tomato Sauce Recipe with Spicy Italian Sausage

From time to time here on culicurious, I’m going to revisit recipes previously published and give them an update.  Sometimes recipes are published, but preferences change over time or I find ways to improve recipes. This hearty tomato sauce recipe is one of those recipes. It was originally published back in 2011 under the title Hearty Red Sauce.


A hearty tomato sauce is a very versatile kitchen staple. It can be eaten over pasta but can also be used as an ingredient in many other dishes like pizza, flat breads, sandwiches and the like. Actually, next week I’m going to be publishing a garlic bread pizza recipe that uses this very sauce on it.  That was really the starting point for republishing this recipe.


So why is this recipe special, you may be thinking… There are so many red sauce recipes out there. Well, this one is slow-simmered so it’s not quick.  But it’s especially flavorful due to the spicy Italian sausage that’s used. I bought a full pound of spicy Italian pork sausage at Whole Foods and then browned it and added it to the sauce.  The extra herbs and spices in the sausage elevated the flavor profile of the sauce significantly.  Below is a photo sequence of the sausage cooking process.


You might be wondering why it’s necessary for us to cook this red sauce for so long – two hours simmering, plus the time to brown the onion and celery. This dish is primarily made of tomatoes. And tomatoes contain lots of water in them. Cooking the tomatoes for an extended period of time allows the water to cook out of the tomatoes thus leaving a richer and heartier red sauce. In the end, the tomato sauce is thick and rich and isn’t running all over your plate. Perfect!

One of my favorite parts of a good tomato sauce is the variety of herbs and spices used. I like to use a wide variety of dried herbs as you can see below.  I always add in celery salt, garlic powder and onion powder as well for extra flavor. If you prefer more or less of a particular herb, feel free to tailor the recipe to suit your tastes.  This is just a rough guideline, there’s no wrong way to add herbs to a delicious spaghetti sauce!


I’ve been thinking about pasta lately and about the quality of wheat.  For quite a while, I’ve been buying the organic wheat pasta from Whole Foods. While it’s of much better quality than other brands at regular grocery stores, it’s still basic wheat. The last time I was shopping, I ventured over to the pasta section with noodles made from wheat alternatives. Below are two that I found.


The long red pasta is made from organic spelt. Spelt is actually wheat, but it’s an ancient form of wheat that’s not been bastardized by food processors.  The small shell pasta is made from organic quinoa and rice.  Both were very tasty and really didn’t have different textures from the regular wheat versions of pasta.  While they are a bit more expensive, I feel the higher quality justifies the price difference.

Finally, this recipe does make quite a bit of pasta sauce – about a gallon. So you may not be able to use it all within about a week or so.  But guess what? It freezes very well. I’ve portioned out some of my leftovers for pizza and pasta portions. For the pizza bags, I’ve portioned out one cup. For the pasta bags, I’ve portioned out two cups (one serving for me and one for Jeremy).  Both bags are labelled with the cook date, contents and intended use. Sauce can last in the freezer for up to a year.


Now that we’ve got all that business out of the way, on to the recipe!

Yield: 1 gallon (8-10 servings)

Hearty Tomato Sauce Recipe with Spicy Italian Sausage

This hearty tomato sauce recipe is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It's packed with herbs, spices and delicious Italian sausage. Try it over pasta or as a pizza sauce!


  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-28 ounce cans of tomato sauce
  • 2-28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 pound fresh spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 box of pasta, boiled according to package directions
  • Garnish: freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat and cook the onions and celery for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in the kosher salt while cooking.
  2. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes, until very fragrant.
  3. Add the tomato paste and cook 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the cans of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and the herbs and spices. Stir very well to incorporate all of the ingredients. Taste the sauce, and add a little more salt if needed.
  5. After mixing well, lower the heat to medium and place lid on pot, leaving a crack for steam to vent.
  6. While this is simmering, brown the loose sausage in a separate skillet.
  7. Once cooked through, stir sausage into the sauce, and replace lid with a crack for steam venting. The sausage should throw very little fat so mix it all in the sauce.
  8. Simmer sauce for two hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so to make sure it is not sticking
  9. Serve over pasta garnished with freshly grated cheese.

Freezes well in Ziploc bags. Portion one cup for pizza topping. For pasta, portion one cup per person you plan to serve. Keeps in freezer for up to a year.

Prep:25 minutes

Cook:2 hours, 15 minutes

Total:2 hours, 40 minutes

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