Fresh tomato sauce – cooked slow

Here in the UK I find it difficult to buy tomatoes that are ripe and therefore sweet flavoured, the second best I can do is to ripen them properly at home on a sunny windowsill, leaving them there for 5-7 days.  This means I am always buying tomatoes a week in advance before using them.

They need to reach that yielding soft stage almost over-ripe turning into a deep red.  In doing this the sugar content increases.  Any variety of tomatoes will do but not very small ones otherwise there is too much skin to ratio of tomato flesh.

They should be as red inside as the are on the outside.  Never refrigerate tomatoes when you buy them, only after they have been ripen properly.

tomato sauce

Not just for pasta

I use this sauce with:

  • sautéed potatoes
  • refrying leftovers from Sunday roast
  • warmed with a tin of cannellini beans
  • a spoonful over rice
  • tossed with courgettes/aubergines and baked.
  • add raw chicken, adjust seasoning and cook until chicken is done, a good supper dish.

Start with plenty of tomatoes because they contain so much water you will be surprised how much the sauce reduces.

Broschetta or pizza topping

If the sauce is reduced much further than the recipe below until it is dry it can be used as broschetta or pizza topping.  Either reduce in a pan on the lowest possible heat stirring often to stop the bottom from burning while most of the water evaporates or put the sauce in a low oven 150˚C fan, to dry out for 45mins – 1hr, stirring at least once in that time.

tomato sauce 2

Tomato Paste

And if you dry the sauce even in the oven for a further 45mins – 1hr at lower temperature 130˚C (remember to stir it), it will turn a deep red, concentrated tomato paste with a beautiful sweet concentrated flavour.  Once dry enough blend it until smooth.


It will last for a while in the fridge, I’ve had it for 2 weeks, top it with olive oil in a tight container.  Use it as dip for crudité or instead of butter, delicious.


Making the sauce

fresh tomato sauce - slow 1

In a wide pan soften the onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes on a low heat, until the onions become translucent and are a golden colour, about 10mins.  Add the chopped garlic stir it in and cook it for a minute.

Add the chopped tomatoes and one handful of the basil, salt and pepper.

Let the sauce bubble away slowly uncovered.

fresh tomato sauce 3

During the cooking of the sauce stir it 2 to 3 times, to prevent the bottom burning. During cooking the water comes to the surface appearing as if it is not burning but the solid parts of the tomato sinks to the bottom, sticks and burns.

After about an hour you should see the sauce reduced and thicken.  At the end stir in the remainder of the basil.  Adjust seasoning.

Fresh Tomato Sauce – cooked slow

Enough sauce for 8 pasta servings.

Do add half of the basil at the beginning of the sauce it does make a difference.

  • 1 large onion or 2 small ones, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or extra virgin olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your pan)
  • 3kg / 6 1/2 lbs tomatoes, roughly chopped. I don’t skin them, there is a lot of flavour in the skin. If you want to plunge tomatoes into boiling water for 15 seconds and remove, skins should peel away easily. Plum tomatoes seem to have very hard skins even after cooking, I would skin those. If skinning them add an extra kilo to recipe.
  • 3 – 4 fat cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 large handfuls / 1 cup basil, roughly chopped last minute
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground

Chop a large onion into a wide pan, pour generous amounts of olive oil, there has to be enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Soften the onion on low heat, until it’s translucent and begins to take on a golden colour, 7-10 minutes. If onion is beginning to burn put the lid on the pan and turn the heat down to lowest, if necessary add a tablespoon of more oil.  Stir in the chopped garlic and soften for one minute, do not let garlic burn as it will leave an acrid background taste.

Add the chopped tomatoes, half of the basil, salt and pepper.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and with the lid off the pan let it slowly bubble away for an 1hr until all tomatoes have broken down completely and the sauce has visibly thicken.  During this time give the sauce a stir now and again because sometimes the bottom of the sauce will burn, all the water of the sauce rises to the top and the solids sink to the bottom.

Since sizes of pans and hobs differ, if at the end of the hour the sauce is still too watery simply cook it for longer uncovered until reduced down.  Add the other handful of basil and taste to adjust salt and pepper.