We eat a lot of pasta in our house, which is more than fine with me as I love the stuff. Consequently, one of my most-used recipes is a basic tomato sauce.
Y’all probably have your favourite way of making this staple but here’s mine: I cook onion and garlic in olive oil (often with a little bit of chopped chilli, dried chilli flakes or a sprinkle of paprika) until softened, add a dollop of tomato purée and cook that for a bit, then a splash of balsamic vinegar, a tin of chopped plum tomatoes (or a carton of passata), a teaspoon of sugar, and some Italian mixed herbs, seasoning and simmer until thickened.
For a simple, comforting supper, nothing beats stirring this into pasta and covering in cheese (mature cheddar or parmesan). Yum.
Tomato pasta sauce keeps well in the freezer for nights when you really can’t be bothered to cook, but it’s also extremely versatile. Here are my top five ways to pimp that basic sauce and ring the changes:
1. Add extra chilli during the cooking stage (or add it when reheating if you’re using a pre-made portion from your freezer), blitz the sauce with a stick blender to make it smooth (I don’t bother if I used passata in the first place), and add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and some double cream (or crème fraiche) at the end of the cooking time.
2. A variation on the ‘creamy tomato’ theme, and one that is friendly towards young children or the chilli-averse, is to stir in some garlic-and-herb cream cheese until melted. I use about half a tub (100g) to serve two adults. Again, I prefer this when I’ve used passata/blended the basic sauce.
3. A tiny bit of smoked bacon or chopped chorizo goes a long way. Throw some in when you’re cooking your onions and garlic at the beginning and if you have any red wine leftover* slosh it in instead of the balsamic vinegar.
4. Roast chopped courgettes and peppers in a hot oven and stir into the sauce before serving. To make this really gutsy and delicious, I like to add torn up mozzarella and fresh basil, too.
5. Turn it into a puttanesca sauce with cooked anchovy fillets, capers, and black olives. Just chuck ’em in and simmer. If you didn’t add any chilli to the base sauce, put a little chilli powder in, too.
* I know: Unlikely. Still, it’s a good excuse to open a new bottle…
[Image Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos]