Master Tomato Sauce recipe

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An indispensable sauce to have in your cooking recipe repertoire to use in lasagne, pasta dishes, bruschetta – anywhere you need a rich herby tomato sauce. Double or quadruple the recipe and freeze it in handy portions. We also show you how to make Chicken with Tomato Sauce and Parmesan and a fresh tomato sauce that can be tossed through cooked pasta to make a dinner in under ten minutes.

Makes enough sauce for 1 lasagne for 4 people or for pasta for 4 people using 400g pasta.
Recipe doubles or trebles easily.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1/2 stalk of celery, finely sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g tin of good quality tomatoes (read how to choose a decent tin of tomatoes here)
6 basil leaves, torn
2 leaves of sage, chopped
Leaves of 1/4 sprig of rosemary, chopped


1. Add the olive oil to a heavy-based saucepan and add the onion, carrot and celery. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Fry over a low heat until softened and lightly browned (about 20 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes and the liquid in the tin with the basil, sage and rosemary and stir. Bring the sauce to the boil, turn the heat down and cook over a low heat for 45-60 minutes (the oil will rise to the surface and turn brown, that’s how you know it is ready). Stir the sauce with a wooden spoon every so often to make sure it doesn’t stick and if it reduces too much, add a little water. When the sauce is ready, break it down with the wooden spoon until it is smooth or push it through a mouli or conical sieve.

Tomato Sauce Recipe Tips

– We were taught how to make this sauce by a lady in Tuscany who made the pasta for the local Michelin-starred restaurant. She used extra virgin olive oil (and as you can see she used a lot) because she said that it was an ingredient and flavouring in the sauce. If you use cheap olive oil you won’t end up with a finished sauce that works on its own in a pasta dish for example. If you use too little oil the sauce won’t be rich or flavoursome enough and it won’t rise to the top to tell you when it is ready.

– This sauce keeps for up to 5 days in the fridge if stored in a bowl covered with cling film.

– If you use a cheap quality tin of tomatoes, you will get out what you put in. Buy a good quality tin of tomatoes – the juice should be thick like passata, not watery, and all the tomatoes should be the same size. Italian tinned tomatoes are usually good. It’s worth spending a little extra given that tomatoes are the star of the show.
Read how to choose a tin of tomatoes and how to know when to discard the unripe ones.

This tomato sauce is good to serve with chicken breasts as the herbs are in the sauce already. Fry the chicken breasts in oil until golden, pop them into an oven-dish, cover with sauce and bake for 20-25 minutes at 180ºC/360ºF/Gas Mark 5 until the juices run clear when you pierce the centre of the chicken breast with a sharp knife. Grate lots of Parmesan cheese on top and grill until bubbling and golden. You should have enough sauce in the recipe above to cook four chicken breasts – freeze any leftover sauce in ice-cube trays and drop them into soups.

Fresh Tomato Sauce


200g fresh ripe tomatoes
1 garlic clove, peeled, halved and green stem removed
10 basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper


1. Peel the tomatoes with a tomato peeler or sharp serrated knife. If you don’t have either of those, cut a cross in the top of each tomato and place them in a bowl of boiling water. When the skin starts to peel, remove and plunge them into cold water and slip off the skins. Slice in half, remove the seeds and cut the tomato flesh into small dice.

2. Chop the garlic and basil finely and place in a bowl with the tomatoes. Pour over enough extra virgin olive oil to coat, season with salt and black pepper and toss.  Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. To make a dinner of Pasta with Tomatoes and Herbs, toss the tomatoes through cooked pasta and top with basil leaves and grated Parmesan or a dollop of fresh ricotta. You can also serve the tomatoes on toasted bread (rub it with a cut garlic clove) for bruschetta. It’s a great sauce to dress a plain fried or grilled fish such as turbot, cod, monkfish or plaice.


Meatballs in Tomato Sauce: Why not make meatballs using our Ratio for Meatball or Meatloaf Mixture and simmer them in the tomato sauce recipe above?

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