“A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.”
~ Laurie Colwin, ‘Home Cooking’ ~
At last! A recipe actually created by me! But as you will see this is the most basic of recipes and most home cooks would not need a recipe for something as basic as tomato sauce. But knowing how to make a simple tomato sauce is very useful for various other recipes. It is also budget-friendly and most importantly delicious! I use my basic home-made tomato sauce as a pasta sauce and tomato base for pizzas. It is great for dishes such as Eggplant Parmigiana and Patatas Bravas. You can also use it for the very South African tomato sauce to serve with pap and boerewors.
I have used many different types of tomatoes for this recipe. My favourite fresh tomatoes to use for sauce is definitely Roma (or plum) tomatoes. If you have some cherry or cocktail tomatoes that need to be used, they add lovely natural sweetness to the sauce. But this home-made tomato sauce can be made equally successfully with tinned plum tomatoes or tinned cherry tomatoes. Of course, my mother taught me to make tomato bredie with large round tomatoes from the garden. In those days they were just called tomatoes – no fancy variety names!
To peel or not to peel…
That is a tough question to answer. I learnt very long ago in home economics class at school to dunk the tomatoes in hot water and take the skins off and then to de-seed them. If you would like to learn how to do this theKitchn.com has a nice set of directions. This has always been just that bit “too much trouble” for me, so tomato sauce has always been a skin-on, seeds-in thing. I was luckily justified for this habit when I attended a Spanish cooking course where the very capable instructor (who also runs a restaurant) confirmed that she doesn’t peel tomatoes for her Patatas Bravas sauce OR her gazpacho!
Home-made Tomato Sauce
- 1,5 kg ripe plum or Roma tomatoes or 3 tins of whole peeled tomatoes
- ½ onion (chopped very finely) optional
- 2 cloves garlic (crushed) or more if you prefer
- 15 ml olive oil
- 10 - 15 ml sugar
- 10 ml dried basil
- 10 ml dried chilli flakes optional
- salt & pepper to taste
- 80 - 125 ml red wine optional
- Cut the ends off the tomatoes and cut into quarters.
- Place in a food processor or blender and process until it forms a pulp.
- Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan and fry the onions and garlic over medium heat until the onion is translucent.
- Add the tomato pulp and bring to a slow simmer.
- Add the sugar, basil, chilli and salt and pepper.
- Add the red wine if you are using it. If you prefer not to add wine you can add a similar quantity of low sodium stock or just water.
- Let the sauce simmer on low for about 20 minutes stirring every few minutes. The sauce should reduce by about half.
- Taste the sauce when it has reached the consistency you prefer (eg quite liquid for pasta sauce or thicker for pizza base). Adjust the seasoning if necessary (tinned tomatoes are sometimes more tart than fresh tomatoes).
- Serve warm over cooked pasta or reserve for use in other recipes.
- I like to add onion to my tomato sauce as it gives another layer of flavour, but I have also made perfectly delicious sauce without onion.
- If you are using whole tinned tomatoes, you might have to help the whole tomatoes to break down while stirring the simmering sauce. You can also let the sauce cool down and use a stick blender or food processor to get the desired consistency.
- If you are after complex flavours, you can use alternative sweetener such as chutney, sweet-chilli sauce or even tomato jam. If you want to keep clear of added sugar you can use artificial sweetener or a natural sweetener like stevia.
- A little bit of chilli added early in the cooking process doesn't make the sauce spicy, but just gives it a bit of heat and depth of flavour. You could of course turn the sauce into a spicy tomato sauce by adding more dried chilli, peri-peri, or fresh, chopped chilli.
- The red wine is also a flavour enhancer and takes the sauce to another level altogether.
- If you are not using the sauce for another specific recipe, it benefits from a final addition of fresh chopped parsley or basil, but you might not want the visible herbs in a sauce used for Patatas Bravas for instance.
- Once you have this basic sauce, it's quite easy to upgrade it to a Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce, Tomato Sauce for Pap & Wors, or try creating iconic favourites such as Eggplant Parmigiana and Patatas Bravas.