Think about it, making a good, basic tomato sauce from scratch is simple, healthy and so cheap. It’s a no-brainer! You can incorporate it into virtually all cuisines, either on it’s own or with any variety of added ingredients: classically, in delicious pasta sauces or with meatballs; as the basis of meat, fish or vegetable ragus, casseroles, stews or curries; as the basis of soups, seasoned with fresh herbs, served over rice, or spiced up with red peppers or warming lentils), for topping fresh pizzas or “tarting-up” ready made ones; and serve it cold in pasta salads or, well spiced and reduced, as a ketchup. Phew!
So, tempting as it is to reach for the apparently wonderful range of commercially processed options, don’t do it! If they’re any good, they’ll be expensive. And, no matter how good they are, at the end of the day they are all processed; despite what it might say on the label, this is Not a Good Thing. Although everyone is busy, busy, busy, believe it – once you’ve got the hang of making-your-own (and maybe have developed a couple of “favourite” basic versions) you, your creativity, your gratefully salivating recipients, and your housekeeping budget won’t look back!
So come on, show willing and get into the habit of making up a batch and freezing it in useful portions. Various sizes of re-cycled yoghurt/cream/ creme fraiche cartons are great – just dunk them in hot water for 10 minutes or so to start defrosting, before transferring to a saucepan over a medium-ish heat and attacking the contents with a fork whilst uttering a few kind words of encouragement.
You don’t need to use fresh tomatoes to make tomato sauce all year round. Indeed, fresh tomatoes might well disappoint – have a look at these links:
So, unless you have a glut of properly ripe fresh tomatoes, you’ll get a better and more consistent result by choosing a good quality Italian tinned variety, which will yield a more intense superior flavour.
Wintry Days and Balmy Nights
This particular recipe is for a “wintry” version of a stock tomato sauce – that is to say I’ve incorporated dark brown sugar, paprika, cinnamon, chili and red wine for a rich sauce to kick off a variety of warming, wintry dishes. Omit these ingredients and add in unrefined caster sugar, majoram, lemon thyme, rosemary and lemon juice for a lighter herby, aromatic “summer” stock sauce. Above all, experiment. And when you get the flavours you really love – make sure you write down the recipe!
STOCK TOMATO SAUCE
(Makes approx 300mls thick sauce)
What You’ll Need:
Quantity of mirepoix*
- 1 red/white medium onion (finely diced)
- 1 medium carrot (finely diced)
- 1 medium stick celery (finely
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
15g unsalted butter
Quantity of mirepoix*
15g sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2tsp dark brown sugar (or 3tsp unrefined castor sugar)
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (or 1 tbsp chopped marjoram)
1/4 tsp dried red chili flakes (or 1 tsp each of chopped lemon thyme & rosemary)
2 bay leaves
150ml red wine (or juice 1/2 lemon)
250g good quality Italian tinned tomatoes
1 – 1/2 tsp good quality fish sauce**
1tsp tomato ketchup
What You’ll Do:
1. Gently heat the olive oil and butter in a lidded saute or fry pan. Add the mirepoix (*see Techniques: Sweating Vegetables) and season with half the sea salt and ground black pepper.
2. Place a cartouche (*see Techniques: Sweating Vegetables) over the mirepoix and cover the pan with the lid and sweat on a low heat, stirring occasionally until the onion is opaque and the vegetables have softened.
3. Remove the cartouche and add the sugar, paprika, cinnamon (or marjoram), chili flakes (or lemon thyme & rosemary) and bay leaves, stirring well to combine everything.
4. Stir in the wine (or lemon juice), tinned tomatoes (rinsing out the can with a little water), fish sauce and tomato ketchup and the rest of the salt and pepper.
5. Cover the pan with the lid and cook the sauce on the lowest heat for at least 60 mins, stirring from time to time to prevent it from sticking as it thickens, adding a little more water if necessary.
6. When the sauce has thickened and darkened in colour, taste to check the seasoning adding a little more fish sauce to enhance the depth of flavour.
Fish sauce is wonderful and natural flavour enhancer and can be used in a variety of recipes. See My Food Heros