Basic Tomato Pasta Sauce

When I first started to make tomato sauce, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know that additional vegetables were added to add complexity of flavor. I didn’t know how to season it properly and I certainly had no idea how long to let it simmer. Last summer, I started hanging out with my friend’s brother upon her suggestion. David was always boasting about his Italian heritage and we decided to have Monday night dinners. He taught me about tomato sauces and freshly baked bread and I taught him about pasta doughs and opened his eyes to the ease and deliciousness of rolling it yourself. It was truly a wonderful friendship that really challenged me to expand my baking & cooking repertoire.

This is not his recipe, but one I’ve developed over the years of trial and error. Though, I will say he provided a vital step in the process of developing it.  I like it because it uses a lot of veggies and only as much salt as you want, making it healthy and versatile. If you want more veggies (or texture) in your sauce, you can always saute eggplant, peppers, or mushrooms in a separate pan and add them in or just wilt some spinach in it as it keeps warm over med. low heat.
Basic Tomato Sauce
yields approx 4 cups


drizzle of olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 zucchini, chopped (optional)
2- 14 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. parsely
1/2 t. cayenne pepper (optional)
small dash of nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
6-8 basil leaves
1/2 lemon, juiced (approx.1 T.)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, start with a drizzle of olive oil and the onion and garlic. Saute until slightly browned and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the carrot, celery and zucchini. Continue to cook until soft and slightly browned.

Add the tomatoes & their juice, making sure to crus the tomatoes a little with your hands. Add the spices and heat until simmering. Simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes. This allows the sauce to thicken and the seasonings to marinate.

Remove the bay leaf and transfer the sauce to a blender. Add the basil leaves and blend on high speed for 2 minutes.


Transfer back to the pan, stirring in the lemon juice. Either keep warm over low-medium low heat until ready to use or allow your sauce to cool in a glass container for another day!


Fourth of July Bourbon Cherry Hand Pies

I have a confession: I don’t like pie. Let me be clear: I like making pies but I don’t really enjoy eating them, a fact that is nearly sacrilegious during the pie-eating frenzy we call Thanksgiving. I love crumbles & crisps. I love tarts and parfaits, but not pies. I know, I know.

In keeping with the theme of this blog, I just want to point out that I cannot find a purpose for an entire container for sour cream. I made soft tacos this week & I also made mini cheesecakes & this recipe and I still have sour cream left. I should also point out that I have too many desserts in my fridge that I am going to have to pawn off on unsuspecting coworkers.

I pared down the recipes I found for these treats because honestly, I have no use for a million cherry hand pies. This filling recipe was the perfect ratio to crust. If you like pancakes & waffles, you could always double it or 1.5x it to have a little extra cherry sauce for the morning.

Alright, so the crust needs to chill a bit so you ought to start there.

Bourbon Cherry Hand Pies  (yields 12-14 small pies)

For crust (adapted from Smitten Kitchen sans lemon juice):

1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 stick of cold butter (8 T.)
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. cold water

Egg wash for later:

1 egg yolk
1-2 T. milk or water

Combine flour & salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the flour is coarse, with nearly pea-sized grains.



In the middle of the mixture, create a well to place the sour cream. Fold to combine. Make another small well and gradually add the cold water until the dough comes together. Form into a ball and refrigerate for an hour (or freeze for 20ish minutes, depending on how quickly you want to get to your



Now, we ought to make the filling while the crust is chillin.’  Hehe.

For filling (or a yummy sauce for pancakes, waffles, etc)

2 cups tart cherries (pitted as I have done, or frozen if you aren’t feel it).
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. corn starch dissolved in 1 1/2 T. water
1 t. vanilla
1 T. bourbon (optional, of course)

*Note: I seriously considered shaking in some Angostura bitters, adding a touch of sweet vermouth, & squeezing a few drops of orange juice into this recipe and creating some spin on a Manhattan.  If you want to go that route, do it and let me know. I will probably end up trying it at a later date.

Alright. let’s pit these cherries.

After washing your cherries, de-stem them & gently insert the knife into the center of the fruit until it touch the pit. Rotate the knife in a circle and remove the pit. Repeat a million times until you have two cups. 🙂


In a small sauce pan, combine cherries & 1/3 c. sugar. Over medium heat, allow the sugar to dissolve & the cherries to break down a bit, around 5-7 minutes depending on how wonderful your stovetop is.



Once broken down, add the corn starch dissolved in water and allow the sauce to boil until thick. Remove from heat and add the optional vanilla & bourbon.


My, my. What a beautiful cherry red 🙂 Cool on the stove for a while and then place in the fridge while the dough is chilling.

At this point, you can either sit down and say ‘well. whatever. I will deal with these hand-pies later’ Or you can jump right back into the dough. I say, seize the day and roll out your dough!

So. I tried to use my biscuit cutters for this and they were just a tad bit too small so I ended up needing to roll them out a bit. I would suggest thinking more about what size you would like than I did. I think the rim of a small bowl would work nicely. Something roughly around 3.5-4.5 inches across. They don’t grow in the oven, so make your selection wisely.

Roll out your dough on a pastry mat or your kitchen table or wherever you have a flat, clean surface (hey, I don’t judge). Use a circular object to help you cut out your pastry dough. Place the cut-outs on a wax or parchment paper lined baking sheet & place back in the fridge to chill for another 40 minutes to an hour.


Okay so whatever, mine are a bit awkward. I blame the biscuit cutter fiasco and my own stubbornness. I would also say that mine are a bit thinner than I would prefer. I would say stick to around a 1/8 inch, or you can go thinner/thicker depending on how much crust you like. Basically all that matters is that they don’t tear when you put them together.

After your dough circles are cold again and your filling is cool, you can begin assembly!

Place 1-2 T. of filling in the middle of each circle. Add a little cold water around the edges to help seal the dough. Gently fold the dough in half and press together with your fingers. For a decorative edge, use a fork to seal.


After all the pies are folded, place in the fridge for another 2o or so minutes. This is their last settling period as the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Transfer your pies to a baking sheet. Make sure to spray your sheet or use a silicon baking mat because these little creatures like to stick! Score the tops of your pies with a sharp knife. Combine an egg yolk and a 1-2 T. milk or water . With a pastry brush or your fingers or whatever else, gently apply the egg wash to the top of your pies. Sprinkle a little coarse sugar on top of the wash or regular sugar if you don’t feel like having coarse sugar around.


Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how golden brown you would like to see your pies. Let cool for 5-10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm just plain or with optional little scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream or shake of powdered sugar!