Tomato sauce

By Jess Allen
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When I was young and naive, I would often enjoy pasta with jarred tomato sauce that was often sweet enough to remind me of ketchup. And if I was making pizza I would buy one of those little cans filled with thick red stuff that looks like tomato paste and again, tastes like ketchup. 

But I'm grown up now, and I know the pleasures and versatility of a simple can of good whole tomatoes. There are never less than four cans in my cupboard. 

When we make pizza, do you know what I do? I just open up a can of nice whole Italian tomatoes, drain off a little bit of that watery stuff, stick my hand blender in there, wiz it up, and will add a ladle or two of this directly on top of my pie. Seriously. That's all you do! If you're feeling fancy, drizzle some olive oil on there, too. 

Hot tip: you can freeze the leftover sauce—aka blitzed tomatoes—for your next pizza party, or you can whip up a very simple salsa: add the leftover tomatoes into your food processor and wiz it up with some red onion, fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, salt, and a jalapeño pepper. It’s delicious and come to think of it, quite healthy! 

If I'm making a tomato sauce for spaghetti, or better yet, potato gnocchi, there are just a few more steps. And I swear to you, making your own tomato sauce is not only cheaper than buying it but it is also infinitely tastier…as in, it doesn’t remotely tastes like ketchup. 


  • 796 millilitre can Italian whole tomatoes
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves (depending on your mood) finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper
  • Chilli flakes (optional)


  1. Heat up a pan over medium heat and then add some olive oil. Then add your garlic and let it brown VERY lightly, being careful not to let it burn. I'd say this should take about one minute. (If you want to add some chilli flakes, now would be the time to do it.) Then add a can of whole Italian tomatoes (I always drain off a little liquid and then blitz them with my hand-held blender directly in the can.) I add a teaspoon or so of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, and some good salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir this up nice and let it come to a boil. Then reduce your heat and simmer until it thickens up a bit. All in, this shouldn’t take longer than 10 or 15 minutes.
  2. To this sauce, you can add spaghetti if you like. I’d top it with a glug of good olive oil, some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, and fresh basil.
  3. But my favourite is potato gnocchi! Yes, you can make gnocchi from scratch. But I lost my potato ricer thing and to be honest, the ready-made stuff rarely disappoints. I will cook up two packages at a time, which is probably enough to feed a family of four, but Simon and I will each have a giant bowl, and then have leftovers for lunch. Plus the proportion of two packages is perfect for this tomato sauce.
  4. Add the cooked gnocchi (once they start floating, they're done) to the tomato sauce and let that simmer a bit with some grated parmigiano reggiano stirred in. Then I’ll fill up a bowl with the gnocchi and add some fresh basil on top, and, if I have it, a healthy dollop of ricotta cheese!
  5. Good goddess, this is a beautiful and simple meal. You can serve it with a big lovely salad. Maybe even a Caesar salad? I’m guessing kids would like it too. I don’t know. Let me know about that though. It isn’t what I’d call a summer meal, because the gnocchi really stick to your ribs, you know? But I had to get in a dose of it before the weather warms up.
  6. Anyway, canned tomatoes. You're the best.

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