Monday, 5 September 2016


For my first ever post (drum roll please!) I'd like to share my all-time most useful recipe - tomato pasta sauce. I just HATE to be without a batch of this in my freezer. I use it as a base to make all kinds of pasta dishes with just the addition of a few extra ingredients.

The sauce itself is pretty versatile too – you can omit the carrot and celery for a richer, more tomatoey (is that even a word?) sauce or add extra veg (such as fennel, courgettes and peppers) to make it taste even more virtuous. It also helps me sneak in vegetables that my kids wouldn’t even look at in their fresh state.

My kids (and husband) prefer a smooth sauce so I’ll whizz it up in the pan using a stick blender just before serving, but you can leave yours chunky if you prefer.
Today I’m just sharing the basic recipe, but I will definitely return to this to fill you in on other ways to use and adapt this true mother of a sauce.
I’ve given quantities below for a single batch but I ALWAYS make three or four times this amount in one go – after all, the beauty of this sauce is that it can be frozen. I tend to freeze the finished sauce in portions of 375g, which I find is plenty to add to 300g (dry weight) pasta to feed a family of four. If there are any smaller amounts of (not previously frozen) sauce leftover, I put them in small pots and freeze for the odd day when the kids are eating dinner on their own.

I use a supermarket basics range for the tomatoes; there’s probably a bit more juice in the can than you get with premium brands but, other than that, I honestly can’t tell the difference.

Basic tomato sauce

Makes approximately 425g
1 small onion
1 carrot
1 celery stick
1 garlic clove
1 tsp olive oil
400g canned chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
½ tsp sugar

First, prepare the vegetables. Peel the onion and carrot and chop into fairly small dice. Trim the celery and run a vegetable peeler along its length to remove the strings, then chop into the same size dice as the onion and carrot. Peel and chop the garlic.
Heat the oil in a saucepan, then add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, until softened. Add the carrot, celery and garlic and continue to cook for a further 10-15 minutes, until really soft. It’s important not to rush this stage; if the vegetables start sticking to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat and partially cover with a lid so that the vegetables begin to sweat.
Add the tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf and sugar, increase the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes (or longer if you have time), until the sauce is thick and reduced. Remove and discard the bay leaf. If desired, blend in the pan using a stick blender until smooth.

* Freeze any leftover sauce in freezerproof containers. To defrost, either remove from the freezer and leave out on the side until fully defrosted or, if you forget to do this, pop the container minus lid into the microwave and heat on LOW for short bursts, stirring in between, until defrosted.

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