Top | Vegetarian Main Dishes

Rita's Spaghetti Sauce

(recipe, Kim Carlson)

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Garlic — lots of it — is the not-so-secret ingredient to Rita Hart's tasty sauce. The really wonderful thing is that you can improvise and the sauce will still be delicious; I practically feel Italian when I start throwing in ingredients. Have some pesto on hand? Toss it in at the last minute. Crave a meaty addition? Brown an Italian chicken sausage removed from its casing and cook it in the oil before adding the garlic. Like the flavor of oregano? Add 1/2 tsp. This sauce is really good on cheese tortellini or penne. A grating of fresh Parmesan cheese finishes the dish. Bellissimo!


  1. 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  2. 7 garlic cloves, minced
  3. 1 can (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes
  4. 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  5. 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  6. 1 tsp. dried basil
  7. ¼ tsp. (or more) fennel seeds
  8. 1 Tbsp. honey (add more if you like a sweeter sauce)
  9. ¼ cup dry red wine (whatever you happen to have on hand)
  10. Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Warm oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the garlic for a few minutes, stirring constantly; don’t let it brown. Add the other ingredients, breaking the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon, and stir well.
  2. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour (more if you use fresh tomatoes — see Note, below — or less if time is short). Serve hot over 1 pound of pasta cooked al dente.


If you have fresh tomatoes, chop a few and include them instead of the canned version. Just be sure you cook it long enough to get to the right consistency (you don't want watery sauce). Read an account of learning to make a favorite pasta sauce.