A hearty and flavoursome tomato pasta sauce is a great base for many dishes, and a handy item to have in your pantry for those nights you just don't know what to cook.
Why would you make your own when there are so many pasta sauces you can buy? Well, these are the reasons I do it from time to time:
It's one-pot cooking, and I don't like doing dishes
There's only a few ingredients involved
It's a very forgiving recipe - you can use different herbs, or a different kind of stock, half fresh tomatoes and half tinned...
It's not too time consuming - I can have it bubbling away in the pot while I'm doing other things
It's a great way to use homegrown tomatoes (and basil) in a good year
I find many of the commercial pasta sauces very salty
I know what's in it
It tastes delicious!
You can also make this recipe in the winter, using tinned tomatoes instead of fresh. I always make sure I have tins of tomatoes in the pantry, they are useful in so many dishes.
Basic Pasta Sauce Recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1.3 kg tomatoes, chopped
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 Continental beef stock pot (those little pots of concentrated paste)
2 generous handfuls of chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano (or fresh - I was being lazy, it was cold outside)
1 teaspoon of salt (iodised)
ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
Get out your big stock pot, or the biggest saucepan you have.
Heat the oil and gently cook the onion and garlic. While that's doing it's thing, chop the tomatoes and put them in a big bowl (so as you don't lose any juice). Add the beef stock pot to the pot, and gently stir until it dissolves into the onion mix.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, salt, pepper and vinegar (in other words, everything else).
Let this mix of deliciousness bubble away until the tomatoes have broken up and it's looking rather saucy (pun intended). This will probably take around 20-30 minutes.
Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning, but try to add herbs for flavour rather than salt. The evaporation/reduction will concentrate the flavours in the sauce, leading to a lovely rich flavour. Sometimes I add a couple of teaspoons of pesto if I'm feeling fancy.
Now you can bottle the sauce, so it keeps in your pantry, or you can freeze it in serving sized containers. Bottling isn't actually that hard, although I may do it a cheat's way. I save jars and their lids (especially from those occasional bought pasta sauces), and when I make my own sauce, I put the clean jars in the oven at 100 degrees celsius, and boil the lids in a saucepan of water for 5 minutes. I have a wide-necked funnel (thanks Nana) that I've dipped in the boiling water, a pair of tongs, a soup ladle (also sterilising in the saucepan with the lids), some oven mitts, and a big wooden chopping board. When the sauce is ready to bottle, I sit the pot on the chopping board, get a jar out of the oven with the mitts, ladle the sauce into the jar using the funnel, grab the lid from the saucepan with the tongs, and screw it on using the oven mitts. Job done.
Just make sure that once the jars have cooled, the little pop-up dome in the middle of the jar has gone down - that indicates a good seal. If the lid is a flat type without a pop-up dome, it will become concave as it seals. You may hear a loud "click" from the lid when this happens. This is one of the best sounds ever! If you have a jar that doesn't seal, all is not lost. It just means you will need to keep this jar in the fridge, and use it within a week or so.
If bottling is not your scene, or you don't have a ready supply of suitable jars, you can let the sauce cool and ladle it into reusable plastic containers, and freeze it. Just use containers the size of the amount of sauce you will need to make a meal - around 1 1/2 to 2 cups should do.