Mario Batali’s Cherry Barbecue Sauce Is Exactly What Your Cookout Needs

07/02/2015 at 02:09 PM ET

Mario Batali
Hector M Sanchez; Courtesy Pure Michigan

Mario Batali has spent the past 13 summers at this lakefront home in Traverse City, Michigan, so it’s natural that some of the city’s culture has influenced his cooking over the years.

The vacation destination is known as the largest producer of cherries in the U.S.—and for the National Cherry Festival going on July 4 to 11—so The Chew cohost incorporated the famous export into a barbecue sauce that’s the perfect addition to any July 4th cookout.

“I love the sweet and tart balance and just how it amps up just about any protein.” Batali tells PEOPLE. “I especially love it slathered on grilled pork chop during the summer.”

The flavorful sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week, though that won’t really be necessary if your guests know what’s good for them.

“I also like to mix and match cherries for a more complex flavor profile,” he says. “Whatever is available at the market is what you should use!”

For more of Batali’s summer recipes and Michigan travel picks, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday. 

Cherry Barbecue Sauce
Makes: About 3 cups

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted

1. In a medium saucepan, cook the onion over medium-high heat until it softens, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and chili powder, and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, orange juice, ketchup, brown sugar and cherries, and cook 5 minutes more, stirring frequently.

2. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a container and keep chilled in the fridge until ready to serve or for up to 1 week.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

—Ana Calderone, @anacalderone

Summer Food Edition

Pick up People’s Summer Food special edition, with more than 100 easy and delicious recipes from your favorite chefs and celebs, in stores now or available for download at

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K.B. on

Not a fan of Mario’s. Any multi-millionaire why steals tip from his $3.50-hr. waitstaff, and only stops when he is caught and sued is not deserving of any respect at all.

Bon Vivant on

He’s a tip thieving greasy obese sweaty charlatan.

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