This recipe is a slightly faster variation of the Roast Tomato Sauce and it uses one pan on the stovetop instead of a baking tray and a blending pot.
You can add a grated carrot for sweetness, chopped celery for depth, or some fresh chilli for zing, if you like, and add fresh herbs at the end … but this is a fast and easy sauce for a reason and you’ll easily get away with just the tomatoes, onion and garlic.
Like the Roast Tomato sauce, this takes a little more effort than opening a jar of pasta sauce and you know I’m never going to judge you for doing that. You’ve got kids or other hungry people and a job and a truckload of things on your mind – if you just need to get dinner on the table then you do it how you can.
If you’re reading this, though, you’re probably looking to include more fresh ingredients in your diet, reduce processed food, or cut out sugar.
This sauce combines the convenience of tinned tomatoes with fresh ones. Tinned tomatoes, chosen carefully, should only have some water and salt added to the can and they accelerate the cooking process as well as mimicking the deep colour your family might be used to from a pasta sauce jar.
I don’t remove the fresh tomato skins or seeds because these contain pectin which helps thicken the sauce and you can blend the crap out of it at the end to remove all traces anyway.
I also don’t use tomato paste or bottled passata. There’s nothing wrong with adding them if you want, but I find the combo of fresh tomatoes with tinned is the nicest, fullest flavour and the easiest to cook down quickly.
If you’ve got plenty of ripe tomatoes, absolutely try this method without the tinned tomato component. You’ll get a sauce that’s lighter in colour and flavour that will absolutely sing freshness.
I have another trick for time-poor and frequently distracted cooks in this method – begin with a cold pan. This eliminates the drama of starting out by overcooking your garlic/onion mix from adding it to oil that’s too hot. Even slightly burnt garlic or onion adds a bitter taste that’s hard to remove.
Beginning with the basics in a cold pan on your bench also means you’re safe if you have to go save someone’s homework or answer a work email just as you’re starting to cook.
See the notes at the end of the recipe, and click the top buttons to print or save it. This sauce goes well with pasta, but you can also increase the liquid a little and add some chicken thighs for a more substantial one-pot style meal.
Kitchen kid jobs
And finally, here are some jobs I would potentially give to kids for this recipe, but you know yours best.
- Swirling the olive oil around the cold pan base – a smiley face oil painting is about the right quantity!
- Chopping the fresh tomato (use a serrated steak knife or safety knife like Kiddikutter for little ones).
- Grating carrot, if you use one, or pulling the strings off the celery stick.
- Filling the empty tin with the water or liquid stock.
- Watching the simmer process to tell you when it starts to dry out – ask them to say when the bubbles begin to ‘bloop’ rather than pop!
- Tearing herbs if you use them – the smell is even better when they aren’t cut and it’s a great job for little fingers (and noses).
This is a quick one-pan cooked tomato sauce with some clever twists to build a deep flavour, fast. Use it with pasta, casseroles, curries, or over the top of fish, chicken or vegetables.
- A glug of olive oil (or any vegetable oil)
- 1–3 cloves garlic (optional and to taste)
- 1 onion
- Optional add-ins – one carrot, stick celery, red chilli pepper to taste
- 2–4 fresh tomatoes
- 1 400g tin whole or diced tomatoes
- 1 tomato tin’s worth of liquid stock (I use Vegeta stock powder)
- To finish
- Green leafy herbs (optional)
- Put your cold pan on the bench next to the chopping board. Put a good glug of the oil on the base.
- Chop the garlic and onion (if using, grate carrot or chop chilli/celery). Add all to the cold pan. Put the pan on a medium heat and stir the veg mix through the oil as it warms up.
- While the veg is cooking, chop the fresh tomato into chunks including skin and seeds. When the onion feels a bit soft, add the fresh tomato and stir through to heat.
- When the tomato is integrated in the mix, add the tin of whole tomatoes and crush with your stirrer.
- Fill the empty tin with water and a tablespoon of veg stock powder OR with liquid vegetable stock and stir through. Stir until it is lightly simmering again, and then let it do its job without bothering it.
- Sauce is ready when you notice more lumps than liquid on the surface and can see the bottom of the pan when you push through the mix with your stirrer. Usually this is about 10 minutes.
- Serve as is, or use a stick blender in the cooking pan to smooth the texture out – especially if you’ve got fussy eaters who won’t handle bits of skin or visible vegetables!
- If you’ve got them you can add chopped or torn fresh green herbs at the end.
- Serve immediately (see note) or set aside for as long as you need to get the rest of dinner (or homework, or work calls, or laundry) done. You can store this sauce sealed in the fridge up to four days or the freezer for a month. Enjoy!
If you’re also cooking pasta, the final stage of this sauce takes about as long to cook as the dried pasta does. If you start cooking the pasta after you’ve reached the liquid simmering stage for the sauce, you will be able to dump the drained pasta straight into the sauce and serve from the pan.
Some cooktops struggle to give you a steady simmer and if so, you might find this sauce liquid cooks down very quickly – you’ll notice bubble holes forming in the surface after only a couple of minutes. The best thing to do then is taste to see if it has developed a ‘full’, slightly rich flavour or if it’s still a bit separate and bitter. If you think it needs longer, add another half tin of water and simmer on, adding more small quantities of water until you’re happy with the flavour.