How To Make Tomato Sauce

The perfect tomato pasta sauce should be perfectly sweet, umami and acidic - it's no mean feat. Here's how to make tomato sauce like a pro.

Serves 4


Dish by Twisted

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There are few joys in life that match an incredible tomato pasta sauce. Sometimes simple really is better, and in this case it's all about paring things back and letting the ingredients sing. Tomato sauce has been a pasta pairing since 1790, when it appeared in Italian chef Francesco Leonardi's cookbook L'Apicio moderno. It's about as traditional a pasta sauce as it gets, and should be a staple in everyone's repertoire. Want to know how to make tomato pasta sauce better than *all* your mates? Let's get to it!


Find a small saucepan with a matching tight fitting lid. Pour in the olive oil and place it over a medium to low heat. Add the garlic cloves and bring them to a gentle sizzle.

Cook the garlic cloves in the oil for roughly 5 minutes, or until the cloves are golden and the oil has a rich garlicky smell - this means the garlic has imparted its flavour and can now be discarded. Remove the cloves with a slotted spoon and chuck them away.

Use a pair of scissors to chop up the tomatoes in their juice in the tin then pour them into the saucepan, mixing in all that delicious garlicky olive oil. Add the two halves of the onion, which have a similar role to play as the garlic in imparting their flavour before being ignobly disposed of (or eaten in another capacity). Fill one of the tomato tins with water to rinse out any goodness left inside and pour this into the pan.

Allow the sauce to come to a gentle simmer. Stir frequently. A warning: this is the sort of sauce that will spit red globs absolutely everywhere, so now is the time to utilise that lid. Alternatively, use a sieve or a flat sieve (aka a "splatter guard") resting on top, which will allow the steam to evaporate and the sauce to reduce while preventing your kitchen from resembling a murder scene.

Keep cooking for around 40 minutes to an hour, then carefully remove the onion pieces. Add the butter and melt it through the sauce - yum - then add the basil and wilt that through. The basil is optional; sometimes I find it a little overpowering. Feel free to omit.

Finally, season the sauce with salt and pepper - some people prefer to season at the start, but as the sauce will reduce quite significantly by the time it's finished you may find it's too salty.

Your tomato sauce is now ready! You can stir it straight through some pasta or use it for all sorts of delicious things.

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