Now when it comes to pasta, I can't contain myself. I'd eat it for dinner every day if it meant I would get all the nutrients I needed! But alas, that's not the case. However a big bowl of pasta with home-made sauce always hits the spot for dinner. I used to buy sauces, until over the years I discovered it's actually cheaper and healthier to just make it yourself - and it tastes so much better!
Here is my basic recipe that I have developed, I hope you enjoy it and get some use out of it.
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes (regular plum tomatoes will do, you'll just need to break them up a bit)
- 2 cloves of garlic/1 big one
- 1/3 of the leaves from a bunch of Fresh basil (finely chopped)
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of red wine
- 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
- Splash of balsamic vinegar
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1. Start by finely chopping a red onion and putting it to one side. Now grab your garlic, and here's a trick I was taught. Take a large knife and turn it sideways, then press down on the side of the knife onto your clove of garlic - the pressure will push some of the skin off and make it much easier to peel. Then chop off a small part of each end. Now here is another thing I was taught, in the centre of the clove is a green stalk and this pesky little thing is the part that leaves you with garlic breath. So cut the garlic in half longways, and take out the stalk (unless you are into garlic breath, then by all means leave it in). Put the garlic to one side for the moment.
2. Grab a saucepan and put it on a medium heat with the Olive Oil in, once it has warmed through add the onion and stir now and then on a low heat. Most recipes say to cook onion for 5 minutes, personally I find it takes much longer to cook through than you think, so I normally go for about 5-10 until it's nice and soft. About halfway through this cooking time, add your garlic (I use a garlic press, but finely chopping it will do the trick too!).
3. Once the Onion and Garlic are cooked through, add your Chopped Tomatoes, Red Wine, finely chopped Basil, tomato purée, Salt and Pepper, Balsamic Vinegar and stir through.
4. Now I was taught that any good tomato pasta sauce won't need sugar adding to it, this is because if you cook tomatoes on a high heat then they will sautee themselves. Which means (I had no clue what that meant at first either) that they basically release their natural sugars, and add that sweetness to a sauce. So bring the sauce up to strong simmer, and balance a lid on it so that a bit of air can still get out, but also so that it will also stop the sauce from splattering your cooker and making a mess! (I normally find using a lid that's much bigger than the saucepan is the easiest way to do this)
5. Do this for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly so the sauce doesn't catch and start to burn. After this put the pan on a low heat so the sauce is gently simmering with the lid off for around 15-20 minutes until you have a nice, thick sauce.
Voila! Here is your basic tomato pasta sauce, this portion should serve two people - so if you need to feed 4 just double the quantities. Finish it off with some Mozzarella or Parmesan and a side salad. If you are vegetarian like me, then check that the Parmesan is suitable for vegetarians! As traditionally it contains rennet.
I find that this sauce is easily interchangeable - you can mix it up by adding some vegetables/meat, or some chilli to give it a bit of a kick and create more of an arrabiata sauce. If you have some tomatoes that are getting a bit soft and you don't want to chuck them away, throw them in the oven with some olive oil and garlic and then add them to the sauce. It will taste great, and stops them going to waste!
What are your tricks when it comes to a home-made pasta sauce? I'd love to know.