you say tomato sauce – never buy a jar of pasta sauce again

you say tomato sauce

Every time I go to the supermarket and see the shelves upon shelves of tomato sauce I want to stage a protest, but my English reserve (and crazy lady side) means I only rant in my own head rather than out loud.

I know those jars are a staple of most people’s weekly shopping trips, but let’s be honest. Most of them taste grim. They’re expensive and full of all sorts of random things that we don’t need to eat, plus a ton of sugar usually. Don’t even get me started on the synthetic oregano and garlic flavour some of them have. Believe me, homemade is so much tastier, cheaper, healthier and is easy peasy if you know which corners to cut. And luckily for you, I’ve spent a while working out the ultimate combination of corner cutting and flavour adding.

The secret to all in one tomato sauce

I had always made my tomato sauce by frying garlic and then adding tomatoes. But one day, exhausted by a new baby, when even the thought of frying garlic felt too much, I just threw everything in together. The secret with this all in one method is to cook the sauce for a while longer than traditional recipes. That gives the sauce time to mellow and thicken. The other key thing is the addition of vinegar, which brightens the sauce and adds some sweetness. Just don’t use your fancy expensive balsamic here.  Save that for drizzling on things. You have my permission to buy the bog standard balsamic for this recipe.

Your new get out of jail card

You know those nights when you find yourself staring into the fridge or freezer, hoping some kind of vision from above to inspire you what to make? You’ll be one step closer to a solution when a few jars of this sauce are staring at you.

It will become your go-to sauce for quick, healthy pasta or to serve with meatballs, quinoa, cous cous, veggies, meat or fish or as a base for soups or pizzas. Below I give you the recipe (barely a recipe really as it is so easy) and also some ideas for how to use your lovely sauce.

Make a huge batch

I’m all about reducing the amount of cleaning up I do. So I usually get my biggest pan and make a huge batch of this once a month then freeze it in small portions so that it defrosts quickly.

To work out how many batches you can make at once, grab your biggest pan, fill a measuring jug with water and see how many jugs it takes to fill the pan 2/3 full. Then multiply the volume of your jug by how many jugs it takes. Hey presto you know how big your pan is, and therefore how many cans of tomatoes you can fit in.

The recipe

This quantity makes enough sauce to serve four people with pasta. Multiply this as much as you want – the only limitation is the size of your pan (see above).  Then freeze away…
14oz [410g] can of salt-free chopped tomatoes in juice (no other seasonings or herbs added)
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped (or 1 teaspoon garlic oil if you’re feeling super lazy as I often am)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (the cheap stuff is fine here)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional – a pinch of red pepper or chili flakes

To make:

OK this is embarrassingly short…
1. Throw everything into a saucepan with a lid
2. Bring up to the boil (pan lid on) then reduce to a slow simmer on your lowest heat
3. Cook for around an hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes to check nothing is sticking. Add a little water if it’s looking too dry
4. After an hour or so, take off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning (salt, pepper, vinegar). If you want a totally smooth sauce, use a potato masher or a stick/immersion blender to get rid of any chunks. Serve or leave to cool and divide into small containers before freezing.

Some ways to use it:

When you want to use a jar, either defrost it in the microwave.  Or if you are organized, grab a jar out of the freezer in the morning and leave it by the sink and it will be defrosted by dinner time.

  • Cook cous cous or quinoa in tomato sauce instead of water for much more flavour
  • Add some chopped fresh basil to the sauce and stir it through pasta and a little pasta water with Parmesan
  • Water it down with some stock and serve it with grated cheese and toast fingers for a quick, comforting soup
  • Fry some bacon or pancetta with a sliced red pepper [bell pepper]. Then add your sauce to the pan along with some chili flakes then stir it through pasta along with a couple of handfuls of arugula [rocket]
  • Add the sauce to some smoked paprika and drained, canned chickpeas and simmer the whole lot together until warm.  Scoop the resulting stew up with pitta bread and top with crumbled feta
  • Stir through leftover cooked rice along with some frozen peas and leftover cooked chicken for a quick faux-risotto
  • Toss any cooked greens (broccoli, green beans, cauli) through the sauce along with some toasted almonds
  • Use it as a dip for fingers of grilled cheese
  • Try one of these recipes:


You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools.

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Find more recipes for tomatoes, sauces and balsamic vinegar here.

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