I nicked this from one of my favorite TV chefs, Mario Batali of Pó Restaurant in New York. It's just so danged useful I have to keep it around at all times. This couldn't be any easier to make, and you don't even need fresh tomatoes. Use good canned Italian tomatoes like Progresso. This sauce freezes well, so feel free to double the recipe so you can put some away.

This works well as a basis for Creole dishes, as it's seasoned with thyme rather than basil. If you're making Italian dishes, feel free to substitute basil for its distinctive sweetness and perfume.

Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent, but not brown (about 10 minutes ). Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 more minutes. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to just bubbling, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately, or set aside for further use. The sauce may be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for up to 6 months.

YIELD: 6 cups


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Chuck Taggart   email chuck (at) gumbopages (dot) com