Back to basics: Tomatoes

CLEW food writer and food lover Alison goes back to basics! First out: variations on the tomato sauce.

I am starting with the basic tomato sauce, which can be made just as quickly in large quantities and then frozen in portions to use when you need it. It is great to have on hand to save you time for quick and tasty meals.

The recipe is with tinned tomatoes but if you have some cherry tomatoes which are starting to feel a little soft, just pop them in the sauce.



  • 3 tbls olive oil
  • 3 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 medium onions finely chopped
  • 3 400g tins tomatoes lightly crushed
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried oregano or basil (or fresh)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Gently fry the onions in the oil in a large saucepan until soft (at least 5 minutes) then add the garlic and fry for another minute.
  2. Add the tomatoes, sugar, herbs and seasoning and simmer for 15 minutes until thick and pulpy. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  3. If you are cooking pasta use a spoonful of the salted water to loosen the sauce if necessary. The longer cooked the better the sauce!

Adaptations always based on four servings, so add as much sauce as you need, 3 ladles is probably enough for 4 people.


Puttanesca sauce

Gently fry 1 chopped garlic clove, 3 anchovy filets and half a finely chopped red chili, tear in a handful of pitted black olives and stir for 2 minutes. Add basic tomato sauce and simmer until pasta is cooked. If your sauce is looking a little dry, add a spoonful of the water from the pasta. Add a handful of fresh torn basil leaves. By the way, my children and particularly my husband, do not like olives but loved this sauce so don’t be put off by the olives and anchovies!

Arrabiata sauce

As above but drop the anchovies and olives and increase the chili to taste.

Prawn and tomato sauce

Gently fry half a tsp of lightly crushed fennel seeds in a tsp of olive oil until fragrant (a minute of so). If using raw prawns add now and cook until pink, add tomato sauce and heat through. If using cooked prawns add at the end and heat through for a minute. You can also add chili to this sauce.

Vodka and smoked salmon sauce

Reheat the tomato sauce and add 10 ml vodka and 50 ml double cream. Stir sauce into cooked pasta and serve with salmon strips on top.

Speedy ratatouille

Sauté cubes of peppers, courgettes and aubergines (or roast in the oven if it is on already), stir in the tomato sauce and season to taste. Really tasty on top of baked jacket potatoes with plenty of freshly grated parmesan or put back in the oven with mozzarella to melt on top.

Other suggestions

  • Meatballs or meat roulades or fish filets roasted in the oven with tomato sauce
  • Roasted vegetable lasagna
  • Tomato and bacon lasagna
  • Spinach and ricotta cannelloni

Enjoy going back to basics!


Text by Alison Korter-Lacki, photo by Lisbeth Ganer, January 2015. © 2015 Lisbeth Ganer





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