Recipes in Rotation: Douglas’ Italian Red Sauce

Rnr logoRecipes in Rotation is a series that allows me to highlight recipes that have made their way into “the book.” This book is the binder that contains recipes we make on a regular basis — at least monthly and in some cases, every two weeks. I keep them in this special binder for quick and easy access without sorting through a bunch of other recipes to speed things up when I need to get dinner on the table.

Today’s recipe is a Douglas’ Italian Red Sauce

This is the homemade sauce I developed soon after I was married. My wife had lived with her grandparents for most of her life, and as the got older, their sauces got less and less spicy. I wanted something that would have a kick, please her tastes and also work well for pizza sauce and other dishes.

I have never been one for “sweet” spaghetti sauces, many which call for the inclusion of white sugar in the recipe. I prefer something spicy, with quite a bit of oregano. You can see in the recipe where I add some vinegar, either white or balsamic to add a bit more bite to the sauce. If your tomatoes are already acidic then you can probably leave this out, but most canned tomato sauces, like those I use as the base, tend towards the sweeter side.

We make this sauce probably every 3 weeks or so. We usually have it over pasta the first night, reserve a small amount for pizza or chicken parmagiana during the week and freeze the rest to be used as quick meals on those evenings when we are too busy or tired to cook an entire meal.

Douglas' Red Sauce - 6

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Douglas’ Italian Red Sauce

(See this recipe on 


1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1 medium carrot
1 stalk celery

* I prefer smooth sauce, so I chop these quite fine

1/4 cup white wine
2-4, 14oz cans of tomato sauce (or fresh tomatoes, diced)
1 cup water (used to rinse cans and added to sauce)
2 tsps chili powder
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp Dried Basil 
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
pinch cayene pepper

1/2 tsp vinegar, if desired


Chop and sauté onions, garlic, carrot and celery in olive oil until onions are slightly browned

Add white wine and reduce by half

Add tomato sauce, water, and all spices and mix well. Test for taste and adjust as necessary.

Bring sauce up to boil and then reduce to low simmer

Cook for 30-60 minutes. The longer you cook the richer the taste and thicker the sauce. 

If you have meatballs available, brown them nicely and then finish cooking them in the sauce itself.

This sauce freezes well and is great as pasta sauce, pizza sauce, meatball sandwiches or as tomato sauce included in other recipes.

Previously in Recipes in Rotation:



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