Caramelized Onion Tomato Sauce

tomatoe sauceNow ya’ll know I like quick and easy “recipes” (aka throw togethers), but every now and then an occasion calls for something that requires a little more time and effort.  A friend of mine is turning a year older this weekend and we are having a small dinner party for her at our house.   Her favorite food is pasta (riiiight?!) with tomato sauce so I thought I would clean (and spice!) up the dish a little.

One of the highlights of the summer season in Virginia is a homegrown, juicy, ripe TOMATO.  Part of the inspiration for this dish came from my generous uncle providing me with a bag of about a million of these beauties after a visit on Thursday evening.  Also on that visit to our family farm, I came home with cukes, zucchini, squash and green tomatoes for green tomato salsa.  It was like Christmas!

I admit this is a lengthier cooking process than I usually share with you but it makes a lot, you can freeze the extras, and it is a crowd pleaser!  Need another reason to commit to the two hours it takes to make?  I’m going to show you how to turn your leftover tomato skins into insane tomato basil soup another day!

Okay, here we go.
tomatoe sauce steps

Caramelized Onion Tomato Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • Approximately 15 medium-large tomatoes
  • 10 fresh basil leaves
  • 4 large onions (any variety, I used yellow)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Jalapeno
  • 3T red wine
  • 3T EVOO
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley
  • 2T mixed up salt
  • ½ T coconut oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. Heat a large flat bottom pan (I used a dutch oven) on low to medium heat with 2T of EVOO. Slice onions into small strips and place in the pan. Make sure all onions are lightly coated with the oil. (You don’t have to make sure the slices are perfect or pretty, they “melt” down beautifully so it really does not matter).
  2. NOW BE PATIENT. Caramelized onions are SO GOOD but like most good things, you have to wait for them. Don’t crank up the heat. Leave it on low-medium and stir occasionally but I like to let them “sit” a while after each stir to let the pieces on the bottom get brown.
  3. While the onions are doing their thing, “peel” and core your tomatoes. Okay, this is about as labor intensive as I get. It’s annoying. But I don’t like the texture of the skins in my sauce so for me it is a necessary evil. (Side note: I have read that the skins aren’t always safe to eat unless you cook them thoroughly so I wouldn’t recommend using the leftover skins in say a gazpacho, but I will show you a cooked tomato soup later this week that they are perfect for! You know I hate to waste food!) Peel is also a varying term…roughly peel. Don’t think too much about it.
  4. Check your onions people. You want them to get brown! Throw a few shakes of salt in there at this time.
  5. Put your tomato peel aside in Tupperware and stick in the fridge, you’re done with that for the day.
  6. Take the tomato “meat” and place in a bowl to the side.
  7. This first picture is twenty minutes into cooking the onions.
  8. Slice garlic thinly. If you want it finely chopped, knock yourself out. I like it in these small disks. Cut your jalapeno in half and deseed. Chop if finely. Save the other half with your tomato skins.
  9. After about 45-50 minutes of cooking the onions, you will notice it’s “drier” in the pan and things are starting to get “sticky”. The onions should be translucent with brown ends. Add another tablespoon of EVOO if it gets too “dry”. Add your wine to deglaze the pan and using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, scrape up the little pieces at the bottom of the pan. Stir until the wine starts to get sucked into those delicious onions and if your heart desires, add some more! Once the liquid is all absorbed, add your coconut oil. Most people would add butter at this time and if you have organic, grassfed butter go for it. I like the silkiness of the coconut oil and think the hint of sweetness it provides is delicious but this isn’t rocket science, feel free to use what you like/have.
  10. Turn the heat up to medium.
  11. After you throw in the coconut oil add the jalapeno and garlic. Take your basil leaves and wrap them together then snip them with scissors into the pan as well. Add a few twists of pepper (or more if you like a lot like me).
  12. Throw in your tomato “meat” at this point.
  13. You (we!) have been working for about an hour. And you’re almost done with the work aspect.
  14. Turn your burner to just below medium. Add more pepper and your parsley chopped similarly to the basil. Add one T mixed up salt.
  15. Now is when you have to be patient (again!). I like to let mine simmer for close to two hours. I know I know but it’s okay. You have laundry to do, comments to make on our blog (!), facebook stalking to do, emails to return, a workout dvd to complete, etc.
  16. You can’t just leave it for two hours either, duh. Make sure you are stirring periodically. And tasting. Add more pepper or some red pepper flakes if you want more spice. You have some leftover mixed up salt to use as well if it’s not salty enough. (It should be though!) It can also look watery at times and that is okay too. It will thicken up.
  17. When it’s done, it should be chunky and delicious and sweet from the onions but spicy from the jalapeno.
  18. I love this over zucchini ribbons, whole wheat pasta, white beans, polenta, or roasted eggplant. Anything!


Add a spoonful of greek yogurt to your plate of sauce and pasta and it makes it so creamy!  A pinch of freshly grated parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and a touch of parsley, you’re done!

Wasn’t it worth the effort?  This recipe made PLENTY for my six person dinner party with everyone having seconds and I had zero leftovers.  We are big eaters!  Whatever leftovers you have, you can freeze and use later!  Sweet!
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