Basics: Tomato and Basil Sauce

Image of peeled, chopped tomatoes

Tomatoes peeled and chopped and ready to be made into sauce

This is an enormously useful and versatile sauce to have in your arsenal: eat it simply stirred through pasta, serve it with meatballs, chops or sausages, cook it until it’s thicker and use it as a pizza topping, thin it down and eat it as a soup.

If you have the space it freezes well and it’s a handy way of using up a glut of tomatoes if you grow your own, but can just as easily be made with good-quality tinned tomatoes.

If you’re using fresh tomatoes please do go to the trouble of skinning them, otherwise you’ll end up with annoying bits that get stuck in your teeth. Not a good look.

Tomato and Basil Sauce


About 1 kg of fresh tomatoes, skinned and de-seeded or 2 x 400g tins Italian plum tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

A bunch of basil, leaves plucked from stems and roughly chopped

And/or 1-2 fresh chillies or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)


If you’re using fresh tomatoes, put them in a big bowl, pour boiling water over them and leave for one minute. Pour off the water and when they’re cool enough to handle slip off the skins and squeeze out most of the seeds.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the squished tomatoes (or the tinned tomatoes, well drained). Add the chillies at this point if you want a spicy sauce.

Cook until the tomatoes have broken down and you have a thick sauce, but don’t cook them ages or you’ll lose the fresh taste of the tomatoes. (That’s how I like the sauce but some recipes will tell you to cook it for longer for a richer flavour: the choice is yours.) Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the ripped-up basil leaves. It’s that easy. 

6 thoughts on “Basics: Tomato and Basil Sauce

  1. I can’t wait till summer! Tomatoes are the only good thing about summer to me! (I can’ test and the heat) And I’ll be making this sauce.

    • Well, they’re certainly one of my favourite summer things too, you can’t beat home-grown tomatoes (unless you’re lucky enough to live around the Med). But I also love French beans, fresh salad crops, artichokes and aubergines and fennel and and and … 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you don’t rate cooking your tomatoes long either. Neither do I, but most recipes suggest a minimum of 45 minutes to thicken the sauce. It might be authentic, but I prefer a zippier, fresher flavour.

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