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| tags:cooking pasta

Basic pasta sauce

Someone asked on Twitter how I made my pasta sauce, so here is the recipe! The base of my Pasta sauce is largely this recipe, except I mostly don’t add mozzarella:

At it’s simplest I can make the whole thing for one person in 19 minutes, so it’s great for lunch.



To start, boil some water in a medium pan. Add a decent amount of salt. While the water is coming up to the boil prepare the other ingredients.

First, chop the tomatoes, you can leave the skins on. I chop mine in half, I prefer the texture. It is also quicker. Finely chop the garlic and chilli. Roughly chop the basil or parsley.

As soon as the water comes to the boil, add your pasta. Now heat some oil over a medium heat in a small frying pan. Add in the chilli and garlic. Make *really* sure not to burn the garlic. Before the garlic browns add in the tomatoes then a good pinch of salt. Stir around for a few seconds. Now add in some water. It’s really easy to add in too much, you want just enough to cover the base of the pan, any more and you’ll end up with soup. You can always add more if you need to.

Next, add the basil or parsley. Stir through. When the pasta is al dente drain it retaining some of the cooking water and add to the sauce, stir around. Add pasta water if needed. You should still be able to work out what each of the individual parts of your sauce are made of. If you can’t you cooked it too long and/or added too much water.

At this point you can stir in mozzarella, I mostly don’t.

Slap it on a plate, grate parmesan over it and eat it.

Vegetables and bacon in a pan, the basis for a pasta sauce


With practice I’ve got this down to 19 minutes for the simple version, you might be faster if you can boil water faster than me. Adding more stuff makes it slower obviously.

Only get good tomatoes. They have to taste of something, if they don’t taste of anything your sauce will be crap. If you can’t get good fresh ones (or they have a gazillion air miles on them) use a good tin. It’s not as good and doesn’t work as well with the parsley or mozzarella versions, but it’s better than the alternative.

This sauce is great by itself, but you can add to it as you want. Some black pitted olives from a jar are great. If I’ve got other veg lying around, or more than one person eating I will add that too, depending on the density of the vegetable and how finely it is chopped depends when I add it. Chop it finer to cook it quicker. A good addition to bulk it up is a sweet pointed pepper & celery soffritto. One pointed pepper and 2 celery sticks is about the right balance with one punnet of tomatoes. Fennel and black olive are great too. Just be careful not to overdo it. There’s enough sauce with just the tomatoes for one person, less is more when adding extra ingredients.

If you do add more veg, try to keep the tomatoes per person ratio the same.

In the photo above I went a bit crazy and added:

It was really a bit too much.

*Bacon! Aubergine is great for adding some a bulky umami flavour in-place of meat. Chop some aubergine into ~1cm cubes or strips, one handful should be enough, think proportional to the other ingredients. Put on some foil, sprinkle salt on, create a parcel (crimp the edges to keep the water in) and oven cook at ~180°C (?, experiment) until just soft then add to the sauce.

I think that’s it! Nail the basic sauce then experiment on top of that and you’ve got a handy and versatile base!