Classic Fresh Tomato Sauce

It was once said that the greatest wines of Montrachet should be drunk kneeling with the head bowed as a sign of reverence. Well, this is how I feel about this very simple, classic sauce which, made with red, ripe, flavoursome tomatoes and served with pasta, absorbs the very essence of the tomatoes' concentrated flavour. It's still the best pasta sauce of all, and it can be made ahead and re-heated (it even freezes well).

Serves 2-3 (enough for 12 oz/350 g pasta)

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book One.

Classic Fresh Tomato Sauce
 2 lb 8 oz (1.15 kg) fresh, red, ripe tomatoes
 1 tablespoon olive oil
 1 medium onion weighing about 4 oz (110 g), peeled and finely chopped
 1 fat clove garlic, peeled and crushed
 approximately 12 large leaves fresh basil
 a little Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), to serve
 salt and freshly milled black pepper


First skin the tomatoes. To do this, pour boiling water over them and leave them for exactly 1 minute or, if the tomatoes are small, 15-30 seconds, before draining and slipping off their skins (protect your hands with a cloth if they are too hot). Now reserve 3 of the tomatoes for later and roughly chop the rest.

Next heat the oil in a medium saucepan, then add the onion and garlic and let them gently cook for 5-6 minutes, until they are softened and pale gold in colour.

Now add the chopped tomatoes with about a third of the basil, torn into pieces. Add some salt and freshly milled black pepper, then all you do is let the tomatoes simmer on a very low heat, without a lid, for approximately 1½ hours or until almost all the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are reduced to a thick, jam-like consistency, stirring now and then.

Roughly chop the reserved fresh tomatoes and stir them in, along with the rest of the torn basil leaves, and serve on pasta with a hint of Parmesan – not too much, though, because it will detract from the wonderful tomato flavour. When serving this sauce, it is a good idea to give the pasta 1 minute less cooking time than you usually would, then return it to the saucepan after draining and give 1 more minute while you mix in the sauce.

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