Tomato sauce

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Tomato sauce with linguine, fresh Parmesan and black pepper

Homemade tomato sauce is easy to make and will revolutionise your favourite comfort foods (think lasagne, pizza, minestrone soup, or just pasta). I batch cook it and freeze what I don’t need so there is always tomato sauce ready to use when I need a quick meal.

I tend to use whatever herbs I have in the house that need used up, but always the aim is to keep it simple – thyme and bay leaf are best, but also consider sage, rosemary, parsley or oregano.

Other than the herbs, the flavour comes from the soffritto (onions, carrot and celery), garlic (if you like it), balsamic vinegar, and some stock for depth of flavour (chicken stock works well).

As the name suggests, tomatoes are the star of the show. Feel free to use fresh tomatoes but, you should peel and de-seed them first. Normally I use tinned (or cartons). The best tinned tomatoes are the whole plum tomatoes (with no added herbs) as these are generally better quality tomatoes than their chopped or pomodoro (quite often just sieved tomatoes) cousins. Tomatoes are very acidic so you will not normally want to season it with lemon juice or vinegar. A lot of recipes will direct you to add sugar; I prefer to add a splash of balsamic vinegar to provide some sweetness as it also gives a further layer of flavour.

I mentioned the soffritto – this is the key to making a well flavoured tomato sauce. The soffritto is our three aromatics sweated down in a pot with some oil and salt. You will need a lid as well. Traditionally a soffritto is fried to a golden brown but I prefer to treat it in this sauce as the French mirepoix – I just prefer the flavour. We are trying to sweat or steam the vegetables so that they release some of the water and thus intensifying their flavours but we are not trying to colour them as this will change the flavour of the finished sauce. Sweating the vegetables will take about 10 to 15 minutes on a low heat.

The veg diced and ready to sweat

The vegetables should be finely diced, as small as you can go so that they cook evenly and quickly. The cheat for this is to use the Magi Mix, but you don’t always get an even size nor do you get to practice your knife skills! As I don’t like to waste food, I normally leave the soffritto in the sauce and either serve it chunky or blitz it with a stick blender – it depends on what texture I want in the finished dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 small onions, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 celery stick, finely diced (2 if small)
  • 400g tin of plum tomatoes
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 TBSP tomato puree (optional)
  • 100-150 ml chicken stock
  • 1 TBSP Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 small bay leaves
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme
The raw ingredients

Method:

  1. Heat a medium size pot on medium heat; add 2 TBSP EVO.
  2. Add the diced veg with a pinch of salt and a little water; mix well and – important – put the lit on. Reduce the heat to low.
  3. Sweat the veg for about 10 to 15 minutes until translucent and soft. Check the sweating process every so often as you do not want it to brown. You can add a little water as well if it starts to look too dry.
  4. Add the crushed garlic, Balsamic vinegar and the tomato puree (if using) and allow to cook out for a couple of minutes.
  5. Now add the stock, herbs and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes on a medium heat to reduce the stock. Now add the tomatoes, bring back to a simmer and reduce the heat. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, then remove the herbs.
  6. You can now leave the sauce simmering until it is reduced to the required consistency.
  7. Blitz or don’t blitz!

Notes:

We remove the herbs after 20-30 minutes as we don’t want them to be too strong. The tomatoes are of course the main event here! To make this easy, it is best to tie the them together in a little bundle, it save a few minutes of fishing!

Nutrition (note this is for the whole recipe):

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