bowl of spaghetti

This weekend was pretty special to me. Why? Because my mama came to visit.

You see, my mom (and the rest of my crazy/awesome family) lives near Chicago. And I live not near Chicago. So having my family over to visit isn’t just a “hey how you doin'” kind of situation — it’s a “hey this is special, let’s do special things!” kind of situation. And we definitely made the best of it.

Not only did we finally paint over the bright pink/purple walls in my office to a deep blue-green, we made flower arrangements for the dining room table, hosted a cookout, took a trip to IKEA, explored the cities and had ice cream from Sebastian Joe’s for the first time. Twice. (Raspberry chocolate chip, Iloveyouforeverandeveramen).

Oh, and we made spaghetti sauce. Because Mom makes the best in all the land, and I just couldn’t have her go back home without teaching me how to make it — i.e., make it for me while I try to sneak in bites. Some things never change.

heirloom tomatoes on towel

There’s nothing fancy about heirloom tomato spaghetti sauce in its most basic state, and I like that about it. You can make it as simple as you want, or do it up and add ingredients like chopped veggies, olives, meat or wine. Yes, I said wine. I’ll wait while you do a little jig in celebration, as I did.

slicing tomatoes

For being the kind of person who, admittedly and ashamedly, tends to buy the can of pasta sauce instead of making it from scratch because I’m too lazy/tired/busy/blah blah blah, this sauce is a constant reminder of why I need to get over myself and just make the sauce at home every time already. My mom does it. And my pasta dishes surely would appreciate it. And while this may be a low-and-slow type recipe wherein patience is a virtue, 90 percent of that time is spent completely hands-free. The pasta sauce does its thing while you do your thing. Or thang, depending on the day/activity/mood. Oh, and it makes a batch big enough for at least three pounds of pasta, depending on how saucy you like it. Oh, and it makes your kitchen smell really, really, ridiculously good, too.

cooking tomatoes on stove

adding tomato paste to pot

stirring herbs into sauce pot

Of course, I like to serve my sauce with a sprinkle of fresh grated cheese on top and crusty bread on the side because carbs. Sprigs of fresh basil or tosses with chopped olives and a salad on the side would do well in the mix, too. Oh, and wine. Let’s not forget the wine.

finished sauce on stove

bowl of spaghetti with sauce

So whether your mom is coming over for a special visit (or even an everyday visit), or you just feel like eating a really, really, ridiculously good heirloom tomato spaghetti sauce, I suggest you and this recipe get likethis ASAP.

bowl of spaghetti with heirloom tomato sauce

Mom’s Classic Heirloom Tomato Spaghetti Sauce
A Girl Versus Dough original (or Mom Versus Dough original?)

Yields: About 8 cups spaghetti sauce


8 medium-size heirloom and/or vine-ripened tomatoes (about 2-2 1/2 pounds)
2 6-oz cans tomato paste
3 heaping tablespoons dried oregano
1 1/2 heaping tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 bay leaves
Salt to taste


Core and peel tomatoes with a paring knife. Cut out tough white parts (strain the seeds, if desired) and dice; transfer to a large pot on the stove. Heat tomatoes in pot over medium-low heat 10 to 15 minutes until warm and softened. Use an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender) to puree tomatoes to desired consistency.

Reduce heat to low. Stir in as much tomato paste as needed until sauce is thick. Stir in dried oregano, dried basil, minced garlic, bay leaves and salt to taste. Cover and simmer over low heat 1 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until flavors incorporate into the sauce. Add more seasonings to taste as needed. Remove bay leaves. Serve over fresh pasta.

P.S. If you want to add chopped veggies to the mix (like green peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc.), add them with the uncooked diced tomatoes. If you want ground meat, brown the meat in the pot first, drain, then return it to the pot with the uncooked diced tomatoes. If you want to add a glug of wine, stir it in simultaneously with the tomato paste so you can control the thickness of the sauce (you may need to add more than 2 cans tomato paste if you add wine).