Easy tomato sauce recipes for meat and seafood pasta

To cook tasty pasta dishes at the drop of a hat, it’s crucial to master some simple tomato sauce recipes. The three here should get you off to a good start.

Not only will these form the base of many delicious pasta treats, but they can be further tailored to your liking simply by tweaking their ingredients (I explain how below).

Use the first of the tomato sauce recipes below for meat pasta dishes.

The second is a tomato sauce for seafood pasta.

And the third is a super-quick cherry tom offering, found here.

Enjoy!

Easy tomato sauce recipe – for meat pasta dishes

Serves 2

Ingredients: (For a printable PDF shopping list click here, or right-click this link and choose 'Save target/link as' to save the list for later.)

1 x 395g/14oz can of plum tomatoes

pasta recipe book pasta cookbookHalf an onion (I prefer red onions)

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

A little grated parmesan cheese (a tablespoon’s worth for each person)

Handful of washed basil leaves

Optional:

A handful of cubed pancetta (belly bacon)

Tomato purée/paste

Half a 250g/8.8oz tub of Ricotta cheese (the Santa Lucia brand is delicious)

Equipment:

Large pan/skillet

Timings

Overall preparation & cooking time: 30 mins

(This time is just for cooking the sauce and doesn’t include cooking your pasta, however your pasta can be boiled in a second pan while the sauce finishes cooking.)

STEP 1 - Peel and finely chop the onion.

STEP 2 - Cover half of the pan’s base in olive oil and place a low/medium heat hob. You’re looking to heat this oil up for 2 or 3 minutes.

TIP: Be careful not to burn the oil. Warming it gently is preferable (on our hob at home I use the 3 setting – out of a maximum 6). If the oil starts smoking and smelling, it’s burnt, so pour it away and start again.

STEP 3 - When the oil is hot, throw in the onions and torn basil leaves and cook these gently for 2 or 3 mins (just softening them up).

STEP 4 - If using pancetta/bacon, throw it in now and fry it all gently for another 4 or 5 minutes (until the onion and bacon begin to brown).

(Don’t let these ingredients go black though – if in doubt, turn down the heat or move the pan off the heat entirely.)

STEP 5 - Open your can of toms. Throw these in the pan, along with a squirt of tomato paste (half a teaspoon’s worth), a few pinches of salt (one for each tomato) and a pinch of pepper.

TIP 1: My wife Laura also puts just a little drinking water into the empty tomato can, washes it around and adds that too – to make sure none of that wonderful tomato flavour goes to waste!

TIP 2: If you like onion too, why not fling the remaining half an onion into the sauce now. This will soften nicely as it cooks and it’s great to munch on alongside your pasta. (This isn’t traditional Italian style, it’s a Matt (me) thing – but oh so tasty.)

STEP 6 - Cover the pan and leave it simmering away for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. We’re softening the tomatoes here.

STEP 7 - Prod the toms with your stirring spoon and when they feel softer, squish them into small bits (this will make the sauce more watery, but don’t worry).

When they’re all broken up, take the lid off, and leave it all simmering for roughly 10 to 15 more minutes. Stir occasionally. This stage is all about evaporating lots of the water to thicken and finish the sauce.

NOTE: At this stage some old-school Italians might well turn down the heat on the hob to 1 or 2, put their nearest cousin in charge of the stirring, and go to town on the sauce Goodfella’s style - taking hours to get it ‘just so’.

Of course this kind of slow-cooked sauce is ‘buonissimo’ (ultra-tasty), but if you’re like me then you probably can’t be bothered. Don’t worry – this tomato sauce recipe works just as well - and tastes perfectly scrumptious - my way too…

STEP 8 - Consider your sauce ready when it becomes less ‘liquidy’ – roughly resembling the liquidity of the sauce in the picture at the top of the page.

If you’re having ricotta, just stir it into the sauce at this point (see below).

Done!

Tomato_sauce_recipes

TIP: When your sauce is ready, take it off the heat, cook and drain whatever pasta you fancy, then add it into the sauce pan, heat and stir the whole lot for a minute. Grate some parmesan on top before serving.

Easy tomato sauce recipe – for seafood pasta

When adapting this tomato sauce recipe for fish or seafood pasta, there’s actually little to change. All we do is dump some of the meat sauce’s ingredients (onion, basil, bacon and ricotta) and add garlic and parsley.

Therefore, use exactly the same equipment and just go for these ingredients:

Serves 2

Ingredients: (For a printable PDF shopping list click here, or right-click this link and choose 'Save target/link as' to save the list for later.)

1 x 395g/14oz can of plum tomatoes

One clove of garlic (peeled and finely chopped if you like it, peeled and left whole if less convinced)

1 handful of washed flat parsley leaves

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Optional:

Tomato purée/paste

STEP 1 - Cover half your pan’s base in oil and pop it on a low heat. Heat this oil for just a minute or two, being careful not to burn it.

TIP: If the oil starts smoking and smelling, it’s burnt. Pour it down the sink and try again.

STEP 2 - When the oil is hot, throw in the garlic and parsley leaves. Cook and stir gently until a little brown for just 2-3 mins.

Don’t let these ingredients burn! If in doubt, turn down the heat.

TIP: If you’re not a massive fan of garlic, keep the clove whole rather than chopping it. Then after this ‘browning’ step is done, just take the garlic out of the pan. This way it adds just a little garlic flavour to the sauce.

TIP 2: If you’re making a seafood sauce such as pasta with cockles (or another type of shellfish), add these salty ingredients to the sauce now, just after the garlic has turned golden.

(If preparing tomato and tuna sauce, hold off until the sauce is done.)

STEP 3 - Open your can of toms. Throw these in the pan, along with a squirt of tomato paste (half a teaspoon’s worth), a few pinches of salt (one for each tomato say), and a pinch of pepper.

TIP: My wife Laura, like her mum Marisa, is not keen on 'wasting the taste' – so she adds a little water into the empty tomato can, washes it around to grab any remaining tomato bits, and adds that liquid too. “Waste not, want not”, as they say in England.)

STEP 4 - Cover the pan and leave it simmering away for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. We’re softening the tomatoes here.

STEP 5 - Prod the toms with your stirring spoon. If they have softened a little, squish and squash them into small bits (this will make the sauce more watery, but don’t worry – the next ‘open pan’ stage will take care of that).

STEP 6 - When the toms are broken up, take the lid off the pan and leave simmering for roughly 10 to 15 more minutes. Again, stir occasionally. This stage is all about evaporating much of the water to thicken up the sauce.

STEP 7 - That’s it really! Consider your sauce ready when it is less ‘liquidy’ and looks like the sauce in the picture further up this page.

TIP: Fancy pasta with tuna? (Didn't I tell you this tomato sauce recipe was adaptable?) Just stir in a small unflavoured can of the white stuff now, before serving.

Buon appetito!

The wine: Go for a clean white wine with fish dishes (Wine.com's selection is here icon). I like sauvignon blancs, as these taste less dry than chardonnay.

(As with the sauce above, if you've made too much you can freeze it. The tips on my freezing lasagna page should answer any questions you have.)

And next time...

Feel free to further tweak either tomato sauce recipe depending on your particular tastes...

• You might try adding a handful of chopped black olives and capers - as per this pasta puttanesca recipe.

• Or how about pre-fried or grilled eggplant/aubergine? Pasta alla norma style. Mmm…

Tailoring your tomato sauce recipes gives you tons more sauce options, meaning you’ll always be covering your pasta in a mixture that makes your mouth water.



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