All-Purpose Tomato Sauce

Every home needs a delicious tomato sauce at the ready for busy weekdays or lazy weekends. This versatile tomato sauce is perfect for a pizza base, on toast, or to mix into pasta — and it will make your kitchen smell incredible. Technically, a tomato is a fruit, and it is an amazing source of vitamins. Cooked tomatoes are even more nutritious and beneficial, as studies have shown that when tomatoes are heated, the antioxidant levels are increased by at least 35%, despite there being a loss of vitamin C.

Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene, which is what gives tomatoes their vibrant red colour. Research has shown that it is a lot more effective to get lycopene from tomatoes or tomato-based products than to take lycopene supplements. Lycopene is vital for maintaining heart health, protecting your vision and aiding in indigestion. Delicious food that helps with digestion is a win-win!

All-Purpose Tomato Sauce

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion - minced
  • 8 cloves garlic - minced
  • 3 stalks of celery - finely chopped
  • 25 g dried mushrooms - I used a mix of shiitake oyster and porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 28 oz cans plum tomatoes
  • 40 g sun dried tomatoes
  • 3 vegetable stock cubes optional
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt or pink salt
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil or 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • A handful of fresh parsley - to garnish

Instructions

  1. Wash and rinse the dried mushrooms, and soak them for 15 minutes in hot water.
  2. While the dried mushrooms are soaking, wash the celery and prepare the remaining ingredients. Dice the onions, celery, mince the garlic and set aside.
  3. Place the canned plum tomatoes and sundried tomatoes into a food processor or blender. Pulse until the tomatoes are blended into chunky pieces.
  4. On medium high in a deep pan or pot, heat some olive oil and saute the onions until they are translucent.
  5. Add the diced celery and saute for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. We don’t want to add the garlic too soon as it has a really low burning point and, therefore, easily burned.
  7. Drain the dried mushrooms and add them to the pot. Saute for 5 minutes.
  8. Add the tomatoes and remaining spices; ginger powder, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, stock cubes...etc. Simmer on medium heat for 45 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
  9. Remove any large pieces of basil (if you used fresh basil), and sprinkle fresh parsley. Serve over pasta, use as a base for chili or as a dip.

STEP ONE – WASH AND SOAK MUSHROOMS

Wash and rinse the dried mushrooms and soak them for at least 15 minutes in hot water. The water can be saved for later use as stock. Be sure to let the mushroom stock settle and gently pour into a jug or container, leaving any sediment behind.

STEP TWO – PREP FRESH INGREDIENTS


While the dried mushrooms are soaking, wash and ready the remaining ingredients. Dice the onion and celery, and mince the garlic. You can play around with how chunky you’d like the texture of the tomato sauce to be. For a chunkier sauce don’t dice the onions and celery too finely.

STEP THREE – PREP AND PULSE TOMATOES


Place the canned plum tomatoes and sundried tomatoes into a food processor or blender. Pulse until the tomatoes are blended into chunky pieces. Take care not to over-process the tomatoes or you’ll end up with a tomato puree. Over-processing the tomatoes is fine if you want an extremely smooth sauce.

STEP FOUR – SAUTE ONIONS

On medium high heat in a deep pan or pot, heat some olive oil and saute the onions until they are translucent and slightly golden.

STEP FIVE – SAUTE CELERY


Add the diced celery and saute for a further 5 minutes, or until the celery has softened. You can add more or less celery depending on what kind of texture you’d like to achieve. Keep in mind the water from the celery will thin out the sauce a little, so to thicken up the sauce you’ll need to let it simmer on low heat. The longer the sauce is cooked, the better the flavour.

STEP SIX – ADD GARLIC

Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. We don’t want to add the garlic too soon as it has a really low burning point and burns very easily.

STEP SEVEN – ADD DRIED MUSHROOMS


Drain the dried mushrooms and add them to the pot and saute for 5 minutes. You could roughly shop them up, but I like to keep mine whole as they will shrink during the cooking process.

STEP EIGHT – ADD TOMATOES


Add the tomatoes, and remaining spices; ginger powder, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, stock cubes…etc. If you can, add a sprig of fresh basil. You can remove it from the sauce just before serving. Simmer on medium heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You could just bring it to a boil and enjoy the sauce right away, but cooking it for longer really ensures that all the flavours get a chance to develop as much as they can.

STEP NINE – PLATE AND GARNISH


You’re ready to enjoy your tomato sauce! Serve over pasta, use as a base for chili or pizza, or as a dip. I like making my tomato sauce in bulk, so I can just store it in the freezer and grab a little sauce whenever I need to. At this point, you’ll want to taste a little to see if you need to add a bit more salt. It’s always safer to add a little as you go, because you can always add more but you can’t take out!

FINAL THOUGHTS


Making this tomato sauce will fill your kitchen with the most mood-lifting aromas! Although I used canned tomatoes in this recipe, this sauce could easily be made with fresh tomatoes — you just need to set aside extra time to wash and chop them all up. I cooked this sauce for an hour to intensify the flavours, but you could really make this recipe in under an hour on busy days. It will still taste great! It’s really hard to mess up a tomato-based recipe due to the tomatoes’ natural acidic flavours.

Play around with the amounts of salt and spice you add to this sauce depending on what you intend on using it for. If you’re going to use it as a pizza base, you might want to add a little less salt if you’re planning on adding tuna or cured meats to the pizza.

On lazy weekends, I love using this sauce as a base for my avocado toast. The combination of the little chunks of celery and the meatiness of the mushrooms is so satisfying that on busy days where I can’t find time to cook, or if I just need a little pick-me-up, I find myself heating up some of this sauce and eating it out of a bowl — it’s essentially just tomato soup anyways!

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