Tomato sauce for pasta

I like to make my own tomato sauce for pasta, particularly if I have a glut of tomatoes that need used up, but I have no issue using tinned tomatoes. Either way, this is better than any jar of pasta sauce and, made ahead in large batches, just as convenient. Almost. This one uses a mix of fresh and tinned tomatoes, simply because I didn’t have enough fresh.

Serves 6   |  20 mins prep plus 30 mins cooking


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • one red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped or crushes
  • 1 chilli finely chopped (optional)
  • 6-8 large salad tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
  • one tin chopped tomatoes – the best quality you can afford
  • 400 ml vegetable stock
  • a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • small handful fresh basil torn or chopped
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli flakes (optional)
  • salt and pepper


  1. Chop the onion and garlic and fry gently in olive oil in a large pot until softened and just starting to caramelise.
  2. Peel the fresh tomatoes by cutting a small cross in the bottom and pouring boiling water over to completely cover. Using a fork to hold each one, take a small knife and peel the skin off before putting the tomato into cold water. Quarter each tomato, remove the seeds and roughly chop the flesh then add this to the pan with the onions and garlic.
  3. If you like, you can add a finely chopped chilli at this point too – it’s entirely up to you.
  4. Add the tin of tomatoes and then add your stock cube/powder to the empty tin and fill with boiling water – this will rise the tin out and ensure you get every last bit of tomato out.
  5. Add the stock to the pot, season well and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and cook partially covered for 20 mins or so until the sauce reduces down a little.
  6. Add sugar, balsamic vinegar, chipotle chilli flakes (if you like) and taste for seasoning.
  7. When you’re done, stir in the chopped basil.
  8. This is best made the day before you plan to use it and allowed to ‘stew’ so the flavour intensifies.
  9. When you’re ready to serve, reheat and add 1/2 cup of the cooking water from your pasta to loosen the sauce and ensure it coats the pasta perfectly.

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