This classic Italian tomato sauce, fragrant and full of flavour, is the base for many Italian recipes.
Sugo al pomodoro, as this sauce is known in Italy, is perfect for pasta dishes, pizza, melanzane parmigiana, and many more. The combination of tomato with garlic and basil is such a classic one in Italian cuisine.
Although this recipe uses only 6 ingredients, and cooks in 30 minutes, the sauce has a great depth of flavours, and tastes like it has been simmering on the stove for hours. It is slightly sweet and has a wonderful richness, with plenty of garlic, and a fresh flavour of basil.
Good Italian food is all about great quality ingredients. Away from the Mediterranean, it is often difficult to find good, flavoursome fresh tomatoes. Thankfully good quality tinned tomatoes are easily available, and make an excellent sauce in a fraction of the time. Look out for tinned San Marzano tomatoes, a variety of plum tomato, as they have a wonderful sweetness and flavour.
Here are some useful tips for best results:
- Add the garlic to cold oil and heat them together, rather than adding garlic to hot oil. This is so it can cook slowly, releasing more flavour, and is less likely to burn.
- Use good quality tinned tomatoes – avoid using brands which are too acidic, or taste sour.
- Cook uncovered and bring the tomatoes to a boil before reducing the heat all the way down to a gentle simmer. As the sauce reduces, the flavours become more concentrated.
- The tomato paste adds a rich tomato flavour, as though the sauce had been gently simmering for hours.
- For a smoother sauce, use a hand blender.
- Tear the basil leaves rather than chopping them, to avoid bruising and losing the oil/flavour. Then add the basil leaves after turning off the heat, so that their delicate flavour is not lost during cooking.
- Adjust cooking time for a thinner or thicker sauce, according to the dish you are preparing this for (e.g. pasta with a tomato sauce or melanzane parmigiana).
Although this recipe is quick and easy, consider making a larger quantity to freeze in mason jars, zip lock bags or ice trays (small portions are great for making pizza). It’s amazing how many dishes this sauce can be used for!
Italian tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tins tomatoes plum or chopped tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed then chopped
- 3 basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a medium saucepan, heat the oil with the garlic on a medium flame. Once the garlic softens (before it browns), pour in the tinned tomatoes. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes, or a blender for a smoother sauce. Cook uncovered, bringing to a boil, then turn down the heat to low, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, then tear the basil leaves and stir them into the sauce. Allow the sauce to rest for a few minutes while the basil oils flavour the sauce.
- Heat the oil with the garlic to gradually release more flavour and avoid burning the garlic.
- Cook uncovered - turn the heat down as it simmers, so the sauce does not splash outside of the pan.
- Adjust cooking times for a thinner or thicker sauce, depending on the dish.
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