Perfect homemade tomato sauce recipes using tinned or fresh tomatoes from pasta sauce to stews

How to make a simple tomato sauce is key to making life in the kitchen easier.

I rely on tomatoes, a lot.

They’re the basis of many dishes, from stews to pasta.

In summer, cherry tomatoes feature roasted in this simple cannellini salad.

Or added to a simple (slightly decadent) salad.

They are so incredibly versatile.

And they’re good for you… they contain high-powered antioxidants.

But it’s not that easy to maintain a kitchen full of fresh tommy’s.

The perfect kitchen scene

We all dream of our kitchen fall of the freshest, tastiest produce.

Or that we can just pop down the road and buy some freshly picked fruit and veggies.

I often look at some of these celebrity chefs cooking shows.

And their recipes look and sound incredible.

But then I look again.

And realise they’re using fresh Heritage tomatoes or Italian plum tomatoes.

Which is lovely but I can’t find those locally.

So, it’s important to know there are ways around this.

And it comes in a can!

What are the differences between the types of tinned tomatoes?

Whole peeled tomatoes

Whole peeled tomatoes are packed in either tomato juice or puree.

They’re great for long-simmering recipes like stews, soup, sauce.

As the longer they simmer, they’ll really start to break down.

Chopped tomatoes

These tomatoes are picked at their ripest so have loads of flavour.

And they can them in their own rich juice.

Great for pasta sauces, curries, tagines and casseroles as they break down during a long simmer but still keep some texture.

Cherry tomatoes

Perfect for quick pasta sauces rather than long slow cooks as they will break down too much.

They have a lovely sweet flavour.

Plum tomatoes

Plum tomatoes are fleshier than the other varieties.

Great for making thick pasta sauces or chopped for a salsa.


Passata has a smooth texture as it’s been puréed and sieved.

It’s great for a pizza base sauce, using in a chilli, Bolognese, casserole, etc

Tomato purée

Obviously not found in a tin.

But worth a mention as it’s great to always have in your kitchen arsenal.

Tomato puree is a concentrate and is great to enrich sauces and casseroles. 

How to make tomato sauce; tinned & fresh

Here are two recipes from my favourite chef’s.

Angela Hartnett is using tinned tomatoes and Ottolenghi is a fresh tomato recipe.

Angela Hartnett’s basic tinned tomato sauce

Makes 4-6 portions


  • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • an onion, finely chopped
  • 2 x 400g cans tomatoes
  • a garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary


  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until softened.
  3. Add the garlic, tomatoes (having drained them of some of their juice), tomato purée, sugar and rosemary.
  4. Lower the heat and simmer for 25-35 minutes, until the sauce is thick and jam-like in consistency.
  5. Remove the rosemary spring and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Ottolegnhi’s tomato sauce using fresh tomatoes

This recipe takes a bit longer to make.

But I can tell you, it’s worthwhile.

And it’s not exactly hard work letting your fresh tomatoes gently bubble away.

So, I do recommend giving this a go.

And the serving it with spaghetti.

It’s SO simple.

…well it does come from Ottolenghi’s ‘Simple’ cookbook.

So no surprises there.

Serves 4


  • 90ml olive oil 
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced very thinly
  • 1kg cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ½ tsp caster sugar (or a bit more or less, depending on the tomatoes’ sweetness)
  • 2 dried ancho chillies, roughly torn (optional)


  1. Put 75ml of the oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high heat.
  2. Once hot, add the garlic and fry for up to a minute, stirring a few times, until it’s just starting to caramelise.
  3. Add the tomatoes (be gentle, or the oil may spit), sugar, chillies and half a teaspoon of salt.
  4. Add 200ml water and stir through for four minutes, until the tomatoes are starting to break down and the liquid is bubbling.
  5. Turn down the heat to medium-low and cook for an hour, stirring every once in a while, until the tomatoes have completely broken down and the sauce has thickened.
  6. Stir through the torn basil and keep somewhere warm.

A quick tip on how to give fresh tomatoes extra flavour

It’s difficult to get really flavoursome tomatoes outside the Mediterranean, so don’t be afraid to make sauces using canned plum tomatoes instead

 when using fresh, but insipid fruit, add some tomato puree and a pinch of sugar.

Reference SpruceEast

Photo FoodiesFeed: Jakub Kapusnak