This is the most useful recipe to have in your repertoire. I use it – sometimes with the addition of broccoli, chorizo, bacon or chilli – with gnocchi, pasta, cannelloni and polenta, as a topping for pizza and even when baking pancakes. If you can track down some decent Italian plum tomatoes, it’s all the better for that; if you can’t, just keep tasting and adjusting the flavour with sugar if it’s too bitter, red wine or balsamic vinegar if it’s too sweet, tomato purée if it needs more body, water if it’s too thick. If you have fresh basil, add it at the end to lift the flavour of sauce. I often use thyme – fresh if I have it but sometimes dried – if I want the sauce to have a herby tinge.
Simple Tomato Sauce
Olive oil – 1 tablespoon
Onion – 1, peeled and finely chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, peeled and sliced
Tinned plum tomatoes – 1 can
Bay leaf – 1
Sugar – 1 teaspoon, or to taste
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a heavy based frying pan. Add the onions and soften over a moderate heat for 3-4 minutes, add the garlic and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes. Pour the tinned tomatoes into the pan, squashing them as you stir, add the bay leaf and sugar, and simmer for at least 15 minutes to concentrate the flavour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
With pasta, this will serve two people, with some leftovers for lunch.