No matter what pasta sauce I try, nothing ever beats the classic pasta al pomodoro – some good quality, al-dente spaghetti, heap of Parmegiano Regianno, maybe some toasted pine nuts and chunks of buffallo mozarrella on top… It could very well be my all time favourite meal. The sauce is what makes that dish what it is, and it is so so simple – you can freeze or jar it, and use it on pasta, pizza, on foccacias or bruscettas, or even add it to something like ragu, Bolognese sauce, or a minestrone soup, as it really packs a lot of those lovely Italian flavours. The recipe below is a year round one – you will use canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones, so you can bring summer vibes to your dinner any season. If you’re reading this in summer and have an abundance of big juicy tomatoes at your disposal definitely use those, but you might need to cook the sauce a bit longer.
- 4 cans (or 1600g) chopped tomatoes – or 4kg peeled, chopped very ripe saucing tomatoes (like roma, oxheart, santorini,…)
- 700g bottle of passata (you can skip this if using fresh tomatoes)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1tbs tomato paste
- 2tsp salt
- 1tsp black pepper
- 6 garlic cloves
- 6 sprigs of rosemary
- 5 bay leaves
- 1.5 tbsp wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- chilli flakes (to taste)
- a bunch of fresh basil leaves
- You can do this one either in a big cast iron pot / dutch oven, or in a electric slow cooker, which will take much longer but you can let it simmer slowly for hours without much work. If using a slow cooker, do step 3 on a heavy bottom pan, then transfer in a slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients then. I’ve used my big Baccarat Le Connoisseur cast iron pot (thank you House Australia for sending that one my way), and it was done in about 1.5h on medium heat.
- Get everything ready: chop or press your garlic cloves, chop your rosemary super finely, and get your other spices ready and cans open.
- Place your cast iron pot on low-medium heat and pour 1/4 cup of olive oil in; once nice and hot but not smoking, add the rosemary and garlic, and gently fry for 3-5min, stirring regularly to prevent garlic from sticking to the pan. Add the chilli flakes, freshly ground black pepper and bay leaves, give it another swirl around the pot and tip in one can of tomatoes, stirring vigorously to deglaze your pan.
- Add the rest of tomato cans, passata and tomato paste, sugar, vinegar and salt. To get all the tomato residue from your cans and bottle, fill one can with water, swirl it around, pour that same water into the next one, then the next one, and the bottle, mixing well every time, and pour that tomato-water into your pot. Stir well, cover and let simmer on medium heat for 1 hour, giving it a stir every 15min.
- After an hour, have a look – you will want your sauce to reduce quite a bit – if there is still quite a bit of water on the surface, open the lid slightly and cook for further 30min, you will want your sauce to be nice and homogenous.
- Season with more salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar if needed, you want almost an umami flavour full of sour, sweet, salty and spicy.
- I like to pack 500ml jars or containers and freeze the rest, but you could also sterilize some jars, fill them with the sauce and top with olive oil. Those should be stored in a cold, cellar conditions for up to 6 months.