This is a recipe I’m incredible proud of as it is based on little more than diffused knowledge and a one sentence message from a Spanish foodie friend. Honestly a point of feeling like I’d made it, as I started to cook a lot of dishes using variations on this but it’s most commonly used in my go to pasta bake.
Mise en place
- Tomatoes, finely chopped or blended
Two 400g cans, cartons or equivalent. So this was the recipes that finally sold me on the best solution being to start with a can of peeled plum tomatoes and chop it yourself. This lets you take out the stems and get a finer chop than chopped tomatoes, you can even remove stems and then blend for a super smooth sauce as I’ve been doing recently.
- Onions, finely diced
Three small red onions, one large one, or any other colour of onion as you see fit, chopped finely enough to disappear into the sauce.
- Herbs, Basil, Oregano, and Bay
So proportions of this vary greatly, as Mr. Faulty, our last basil plant didn’t like the winter in our kitchen I’ve been using dried for a while. A few teaspoons of Basil, a little less of Oregano and a Bay leaf. If you do have a fresh source of herbs that’s always great, and I’ve found using a stem of basil in this sauce is fantastic.
- Chilli, to taste
Personal taste for spice is more prevalent than for anything else, but we like to spice this sauce with some Ancho Chilli Flakes or frozen fresh chillis. The ancho is a favourite though due to its mildness as you can be liberal with them and so get more depth of flavour, but this factor really varies depending on the final purpose of the sauce.
- Garlic, 2-3 cloves, crushed
Fresh, or frozen, crushed to disappear into the sauce
- Spinach, optional
I’m not sure what to say on this, but for many uses of this sauce I add spinach, the ammount varies, whether it’s finely chopped or simply wilted, frozen or fresh, a handful or half a kilo, depends on purpose and taste and need for iron.
- Tomato Puree, 2-3 tablespoons
Fry the onions with the chilli
If you’re cooking this as part of another recipe you might be starting in a pan with fond and fat in it already, but either way make sure there is a reasonable amount of fat in the pan to cook with and fry over a low-medium heat until the onions are soft. If there is fond in the pan then the moisture from the onions will start to deglaze it and they will seem to colour very quickly, don’t worry, keep them on a heat and wait for them to go soft.
Add and fry the garlic
For the last minute or so with the onions add and fry the garlic, waiting until it is richly aromatic.
Add and fry tomato puree
This may seem odd but adding and frying this begins the base of flavour and helps take the acidic edge off of the sauce.
Add the tomatoes and simmer
Reduce to a low heat, as low as possible based on how much time you have and simmer for at least 30 minutes, but up to 3 hours if you have the time. If you do simmer for a longer time consider covering or be ready to slack the sauce with stock or pasta water when you come to use it.
Once it has simmered the sauce is ready for whatever purpose, reunite it with the protein you fried off earlier or with anything else to start putting the dish together.