There are five basic steps to making tomato sauce:
1. Fry onion and garlic in olive oil: Use real olive oil from Italy. If cooking bacon or loose sausage meat in the sauce, use less. The onion can be diced and left in, or added whole to flavour and then discarded when the sauce is ready. The garlic can also be minced into small pieces and left in, or squashed whole, used to flavour the oil, and then removed. Leave it in where possible since garlic is so very good for you.
2. Add meat, spices, and wine: Many types of meat can be used (e.g., ground beef, sausage, chicken, pork chops), or beans can be used instead (e.g., cannellini, chickpeas, romano). Add basil because tomatoes love basil. Add chili to make the sauce hot. Add marjoram if the sauce is made with beef, veal, or pork. Use salt for flavour and add black pepper if not using chili. And if you have fresh parsley on hand, throw some in. P.S. If using fresh basil, add with the tomatoes.
Let meat brown until released water is cooked off before adding the wine. Wine is added to flavour the meat. Use white wine if you can (but if a bottle of red is open, go for it). Turn heat down and cover for 10-15 minutes to let wine absorb into your meat. Then uncover, increase heat, and cook until liquid is almost evaporated.
It’s also nice to add soup bones for extra flavour. Have the butcher cut them into small pieces to expose lots of marrow. P.S. If you can’t find any bones, you’ll have to go without—never use the dog's instead.
3. Add tomatoes, water, celery, and carrot: Use canned plum tomatoes from Italy (avoid crushed tomatoes—they’re for pizza). There are two ways to treat the tomatoes: either hand-squash in a bowl removing any hard stems, or blend for five seconds in a blender. If adding 2 cans, try blending one and hand-squashing the other.
After adding the tomatoes, swish out the can or the blender with water and add it to the pot. The amount of water you need depends on how thick your tomatoes are and how long you’re going to simmer.
Celery adds flavour and carrot absorbs the acid from the tomatoes. Discard the celery and carrot when the sauce is ready. If you don’t have a carrot and are not adding wine, add ¼ tsp. sugar.
4. Simmer: Simmer with a wooden spoon between the lid and pot, or with the lid slightly askew. If you’re in a hurry, simmer with the lid off (so the sauce takes less time to reduce). Generally speaking, the more tomatoes, the longer you simmer.
5. Uncover, add vegetables, and reduce: When the sauce has cooked long enough, uncover and let reduce to desired thickness (maybe 20 minutes, maybe more—depends on how much water you used). This is also a good time to taste for seasoning—it might need more salt, or maybe more chili pepper.
At this point you can add either fresh or frozen peas, or fresh or canned mushrooms. To add fresh mushrooms: microwave in water for 5 minutes and then rinse (this removes the black water from inside).