Caroline’s Divine Tomato Sauce

Our friend Amy (The Kind Mama was photographed by her 🙂 ) makes a lovely pasta sauce. It is so delicious, in fact, that I had to get in touch with Amy’s mom Caroline (an awesome woman, pictured below, who has more style than anyone I’ve ever seen!) to get her secret recipe. Well, it’s not a secret anymore! Thank you Caroline for sharing the recipe and its rich history!

Red Sauce Spaghetti 

Red sauce spaghetti has been the Christmas Eve dinner in my family since I was 7 years old.  My family suffered through a Swedish white dinner: steamed lutefisk, boiled white potatoes, white sauce, white turnips, white rolls.  All the table linens and china were white. Aunt Mae would walk around and tell us to raise our arm and then poke our armpit and say, “Eat up! It’s a sin to waste food.”  We would spit it into our napkin, push up the tablecloth and place the nasty food on a ledge under the table.  The adults got through dinner by consuming lots of vodka.

How excited I was when my parents opted to go to my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Orv’s for Christmas Eve dinner in Denver — they weren’t Swedes.  They weren’t Italian either, but my Aunt Kathy made killer spaghetti, and smelling it simmering for hours was pure heaven.  I made an announcement following dinner that I was no longer Swedish, but Italian.

There are many varieties of tomatoes available and they will need to be very ripe the day you want to make the sauce.  The Hollywood Farmers market, or any farmers market, I’m sure, has a great variety and Trader Joe’s has an abundance of cherry tomatoes.  Yellow tomatoes have a great flavor, too. Don’t be afraid to overbuy because any leftover sauce can be frozen — and you’ll be glad you froze it in the depth of winter!

Serves 10-12 people
Ingredients (try to buy only organic please)

  • Enough tomatoes to fill a large shopping bag
  • Fennel seeds – I use half a spice bottle if making sauce for 10-12 servings
  • 2 organic tomato pasta sauce in glass jars…store brand fine
  • 3 large brown onions
  • 1 bunch celery
  • 2 whole heads fresh garlic per serving (yes, it’s a lot)
  • Large container olive oil
  • 1 cube earth balance butter
  • 3 – 16 oz packages of spaghetti (wheat or rice pasta both taste great) put a splash of olive oil in the water when cooking and it helps prevent sticking
  • Fresh basil or parsley chopped for garnish


  • In a very large stainless steel pan or ceramic pan that can be used on stove top add 1/2 inch of olive oil and earth balance butter
  • Add 2-3 tablespoons fennel seeds and sauté until fennel seeds change color.
  • Add 3 cups chopped onions and 1 1/2 cups diced celery and sauté until clear, and then add LOTS of fresh chopped garlic
  • On very low heat continue to sauté until all is pale brown and sticky.  The kitchen will now smell like heaven!
  • Cut the tomatoes in pieces and slowly keep adding so they can get a bit browned. Turn the heat way down and let it simmer. You might need more olive oil and water if it gets too thick. Don’t use a lid because it will make it steam.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add as much tomato sauce as needed to serve 10-12 people and simmer for 45 minutes uncovered.
  • You can make ahead and reheat with no loss of flavor.

Enjoy with a simple green salad, good crusty bread and a good red wine!

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