As far as I’m concerned, having tomato sauce on standby is a no-brainer. There are just so many favourite meals that need it somewhere: pasta sauce, chicken curry, beef stew, a vegetable bake – the list goes on. Shop-bought ones can be good – and essential to have in the cupboard for emergencies. Delia likes the Dress range, which I’ve tried and like a lot, but you can’t find them everywhere. My Other Half prefers Ragu original, for nostalgic reasons – I find it a bit salty, and usually dilute it with some passata from a jar.
But the revelation is that you can make your own tomato sauce, freeze it in pots, and then use it as you would a jarred one. And it’s easy and cheap, and only needs an approximate recipe.
This is an ideal task for when you’re at the stove anyway, as it mostly minds its own business, and needs hardly any preparation. This is adapted from Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with butter, so in addition to being easy, has impeccable Italian credentials.
Recipe: Tomato Sauce
So, large saucepan, preferably with a thick bottom to help stop the sauce from burning on the base of the pan.
Tip in 2 400g tins of peeled plum tomatoes and an entire 700 jar of passata. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon, or just do what I do, and squish them between your fingers as they come out of the can.
Add about 25g butter, a drizzle of olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar and one large or 2 small peeled onions, halved from top to bottom.
Turn on the heat, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat as low as it will go and leave to simmer for about 45 minutes until thick and reduced.
That’s it. Just discard the spent onion halves and spoon into pots or ziplock bags and freeze for up to 3 months. If you have a food mill or a food processor
, you can also put the sauce in there and chop the onion into the sauce – this will make it a bit thicker as well.
Adapting the sauce
- Add dried or fresh herbs – oregano, basil and parsley would all be good
- Use all butter or all olive oil (Marcella’s recipe is heavier on the butter)
- Up the quantities with more tomatoes
- Use all tinned tomatoes, rather than the passata
Using the sauce
- Just add to pasta
- Make pizza dough and spread on top before adding toppings
- Make curry: fry some onions and curry powder, add chicken and cook until brown, then add tomato sauce and stock and reduce. Stir in yoghurt at the end.
- Quick Parmigiana: layer with grilled vegetables and creme fraiche and top with parmesan; bake in the oven.
[…] Tomato sauce is incredibly useful. A really good tomato sauce is the best thing to have with pasta. You can also use it for baked beans and grains, curries and chilli. It shortcuts that long simmering period you need to get the sweetness out of tinned tomatoes and onions. The easiest and best version is Marcella Hazan’s (and others agree). It needs only tinned tomatoes, an onion, butter and salt. I also use some passata, and you can add herbs if you want to make it fancy. […]