A simple yet full-of-flavor Paraguayan-style Red Sauce recipe: made with fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes, basil, Poblano pepper, onion, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. These natural ingredients are slowly simmered together to develop a rich taste and thick texture that your entire family will love. It is versatile and easily complements any pasta dish.
What is Red Sauce?
"Red sauce" is a tomato-based sauce commonly used in cooking, also known as "tomato sauce" or "marinara sauce." It typically comprises tomatoes, garlic, onions, and a blend of herbs and spices like basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. This versatile sauce serves as a foundational element in numerous Italian and Mediterranean dishes, such as pasta, pizza, lasagna, and meatball subs.
Red Sauce Ingredients
Note: The full ingredients list is provided in the recipe card below.
- Olive Oil: Provides the base for cooking and adds richness and flavor to the sauce.
- Onion: Adds a savory and slightly sweet flavor to the sauce while providing texture.
- Garlic: Enhances the overall flavor of the sauce with its aromatic and pungent qualities.
- Kosher Salt: Enhances the flavor of all the ingredients and helps to season the sauce properly.
- Crushed or Diced Tomatoes: Serve as the primary tomato base, contributing flavor and texture to the sauce.
- Fresh Plum Tomatoes: Introduce the freshness of ripe tomatoes to the sauce, contributing a slightly different texture and flavor.
- Poblano Pepper or Red Bell Pepper: Adds a mild, slightly sweet, and smoky flavor to the sauce, as well as providing a touch of color.
- Red Pepper Flakes (Optional): Provides a subtle heat and additional flavor, but it's optional based on personal preference.
- Ground Black Pepper: Enhances the overall flavor and adds a mild spiciness.
- Water: Helps to thin and adjust the consistency of the sauce as needed during cooking.
- Sugar: Balances the acidity of the tomatoes and enhances their natural sweetness.
- Basil: Adds a fresh, herbaceous aroma and flavor to the sauce, typically added just before serving.
- Red Wine (such as Malbec): Introduces depth of flavor, richness, and complexity to the sauce while deglazing the pan.
Tools you'll need
How to Make Red Sauce
Note: The full instructions are provided in the recipe card below.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. When hot, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the fresh tomatoes, diced tomatoes, poblanos pepper, and onion—season with salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until tender and the liquid reduces by half. Add ½ cup wine, whisking to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
Add 1 Cup of water and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 75-90 minutes, stirring the red sauce occasionally or until the red sauce is no longer watery. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add basil right before serving. Enjoy our Super Simple Red Sauce "Paraguayan Style"
- Extra-virgin olive oil: If you don't have extra-virgin olive oil, you can use regular olive oil or other cooking oils like vegetable or canola oil. Keep in mind that the flavor may vary slightly.
- Onion: If you don't have onions or prefer a milder flavor, you can substitute with shallots or leeks. These alternatives can provide a similar aromatic base to the sauce.
- Garlic: If fresh garlic is unavailable, you can use garlic powder or granulated garlic as a substitute. The flavor may be slightly different, so adjust the quantity to taste.
- Crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes: If you don't have canned tomatoes on hand, you can use fresh tomatoes. Peel and chop fresh tomatoes, or use tomato puree as a substitute. The texture and cooking time may vary.
- Dried oregano: If you don't have dried oregano, you can use dried basil or Italian seasoning as a replacement. These herbs will still add a savory note to the sauce.
- Red wine, such as Malbec or water: If you prefer to avoid alcohol, you can replace red wine with vegetable or chicken broth. Alternatively, you can omit the wine and use water or tomato juice for a lighter flavor.
- Spicy Red Sauce: If you enjoy some heat, add crushed red pepper flakes or a finely chopped jalapeño pepper to the sauce. This will give it a spicy kick and add a layer of complexity to the flavor.
- Meaty Red Sauce: Brown some ground meat, such as beef, pork, or Italian sausage, in the saucepan before adding the other ingredients. This will create a hearty and flavorful meat sauce that pairs well with pasta or can be used as a topping for pizza.
- Roasted Vegetable Red Sauce: Roast vegetables like bell peppers, eggplant, or zucchini in the oven until tender and slightly caramelized. Add them to the sauce for added depth of flavor and a hint of smokiness.
- Herb-infused Red Sauce: Experiment with different herbs and add them to the sauce while it simmers. Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, or parsley can elevate the flavors and give the sauce a unique twist.
- Mushroom Red Sauce: Sauté sliced mushrooms in olive oil until golden brown and tender. Add them to the sauce to enhance the umami flavor and add a meaty texture.
- Creamy Red Sauce: Stir in a splash of heavy cream or coconut milk to create a creamy and luscious version of the sauce. This variation works well with dishes like creamy tomato pasta or as a dip for breadsticks.
How to Serve
- Pasta dishes: The sauce pairs beautifully with pasta shapes such as spaghetti, penne, or linguine. Cook your preferred pasta according to the package instructions, then toss it with the red sauce until well coated. Serve it as a main course or side dish.
- Pizza topping: Use the red sauce as a flavorful base for homemade pizzas. Spread a generous amount of the sauce over the pizza dough, then add your favorite toppings such as cheese, vegetables, or meats. Bake according to your pizza recipe instructions for a delicious homemade pizza.
- Dipping sauce: Serve the Paraguayan-style Red Sauce as a dipping sauce for breadsticks, garlic bread, or even crispy fried appetizers like mozzarella sticks or calamari. It adds a tangy and savory element to your appetizers.
- Meatball or chicken sauce: Pour the red sauce over cooked meatballs or chicken for a delicious and comforting main dish. The flavors of the sauce will complement the meat perfectly.
- Bruschetta topping: Spoon the sauce over toasted baguette slices to create a classic and flavorful bruschetta. Garnish with fresh basil leaves or grated Parmesan cheese for an extra touch.
- Sandwich spread: Use the Paraguayan-style Red Sauce as a spread for sandwiches or wraps. It adds flavor and moisture to your favorite deli meats, cheese, and vegetables.
How to Store & Re-Heat
To store: Paraguayan-style Red Sauce, allow it to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container or freezer bag. You can store it in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. If you plan to store it longer, you can freeze it for up to 3 months. Make sure to label the container with the date for easy reference.
To reheat: You can choose from a couple of methods. If reheating from the refrigerator, transfer the desired amount of sauce to a saucepan and heat it over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. If reheating from frozen, thaw the sauce overnight in the refrigerator and then follow the same stovetop method.
Another option is to reheat the sauce in the microwave. Place the sauce in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until it reaches your desired temperature.
Paraguayan-style Red Sauce can be made ahead of time, allowing you to save time and have it ready when needed. Once the sauce has cooled, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. If you want to make it further in advance, you can freeze the sauce in freezer-safe containers or freezer bags for up to 3 months.
Thaw frozen sauce in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. Making the sauce ahead allows the flavors to develop even further, making it convenient for meal planning or gathering preparation. Simply reheat the sauce on the stovetop or microwave until warmed through, and adjust the seasoning if necessary before serving.
How to Freeze
Freeze the cooled marinara sauce in a seal-tight container for up to 1 month. Thaw frozen Marinara sauce in your fridge and then reheat it on the stovetop over low heat until warm, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or in the microwave until heated.
Tips for Making The Best Red Sauce
- Quality ingredients: Use high-quality ingredients, including fresh tomatoes, herbs, and extra-virgin olive oil. The quality of the ingredients will greatly impact the flavor and overall taste of the sauce.
- Slow and low cooking: Allow the sauce to simmer over low heat for an extended period. This slow cooking process helps the flavors to meld together and intensify. It also allows the sauce to thicken and develop a rich texture.
- Seasoning balance: Taste and adjust the seasoning as you go. Start with a small amount of salt, sugar, and other spices, then add more as needed. Balancing the flavors is key to achieving a delicious and well-rounded sauce.
- Fresh herbs: Adding fresh herbs like basil or parsley towards the end of cooking can elevate the flavor and freshness of the sauce. This helps to maintain the vibrant taste and aroma of the herbs.
- Simmer uncovered: To allow the sauce to thicken and reduce properly, simmer it uncovered. This helps evaporate excess liquid and concentrates the flavors.
- Tomato selection: If using canned tomatoes, choose good quality crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes and avoid those with added sugar or artificial flavors. If using fresh tomatoes, go for ripe and flavorful varieties for the best taste.
- Taste and adjust: Regularly taste the sauce as it simmers and adjust the seasonings and flavors accordingly. This allows you to customize the sauce to your personal preference.
- Allow flavors to meld: After cooking, let the sauce rest for a little while to allow the flavors to meld together. This resting period can enhance the taste and consistency of the sauce.
Why is my red sauce too watery or thin?
Reducing the sauce over low heat for a longer period can help thicken it. Keep simmering until it reaches your desired thickness.
Can I use fresh basil instead of dried basil?
Absolutely! Fresh basil can add a brighter and more vibrant flavor to the sauce. Add it towards the end of cooking for the best results.
Can I make this sauce less spicy?
Yes, you can control the spice level by adjusting the amount of red pepper flakes you add. Start with a small amount and taste as you go to find the right heat level for your preference.
What can I do if my sauce tastes too acidic?
If your sauce is too acidic, you can balance it by adding a pinch of sugar or a small amount of grated carrot while it simmers. Taste and adjust until it reaches your desired balance.
Can I use canned basil instead of fresh basil?
While fresh basil is ideal for its flavor, you can use dried basil if fresh is not available. Use dried basil sparingly, as it is more concentrated in flavor than fresh basil.
Can I substitute the red wine with another liquid?
While red wine adds depth of flavor, you can substitute it with vegetable broth or even water if you prefer not to use alcohol. However, keep in mind that the flavor profile may be slightly different.
What kind of tomatoes should I use for the best flavor?
A combination of fresh and canned tomatoes, as mentioned in your recipe, is a great choice. Plum or Roma tomatoes are often preferred for their rich flavor and lower water content.
How to Make Red Sauce
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion , finely diced
- 8 cloves garlic , minced
- 1-¼ teaspoons Kosher salt , to taste
- 1 28 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes
- 5 fresh plum tomatoes , diced
- 1 Poblano pepper or red bell pepper , finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup water , as needed
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ½ cup torn basil
- ½ cup red wine such as Malbec
- Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. When hot, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the fresh tomatoes, diced tomatoes, poblanos pepper, and onion—season with salt, sugar, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until tender, and the liquid reduces by half. Add ½ cup wine, whisking to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
- Add 1 Cup of water and brings to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 75-90 minutes, stirring the red sauce occasionally, or until the red sauce is no longer watery. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add basil right before serving. Enjoy our Super Simple Red Sauce "Paraguayan Style"
All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.