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Simply Delicious, Simple Pasta Sauce

How versatile is this simple pasta sauce? Pasta, casseroles, soups, tapenade, eggplant or chicken parmesan, baked eggs, ratatouille, pizza sauce … I mean, come ON people.

I love this pasta sauce because it is (a) delicious (b) nutritious and (c) so darn easy to make. I’ll usually make a batch and then freeze portions so that I can grab and defrost for last-minute meals. It beats pasta with butter and cheese as an emergency supper any day!

This simple pasta sauce changes depending on what I have in the fridge, but the base remains the same. Three things I always use:


Unless you live in France, Italy or a similar country that produces fully ripened, deep red tomatoes, I would recommend using tinned. There’s nothing more disappointing than a tomato sauce that lacks that classic tomato flavour and this is difficult to achieve with fresh tomatoes.

Good-quality canned tomatoes in their natural juices make a delicious tomato sauce. The recipe below says chopped tomatoes, but in my experience, I’ve found peeled plum tomatoes make the deepest sauce. If you can get your hands on those, I would recommend.


If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll notice that I put celery into most of my recipes. I treat it like chopped onion, as a base. It’s so nutritious and innocuous enough that it cannot be identified by those with a more “selective” (cough kids!) palate.

I find it works particularly well with this recipe. Something about it contributes to the depth and fresh flavour of this simple tomato sauce.


When you’re making a tomato-based dish, sometimes it can taste a bit acidic. The key to a good tomato sauce is getting the balance of sweet-acidic flavour just right. I always add either a teaspoon of brown sugar or some date paste. Sugar takes the edge off and also adds depth to the sauce, helping to reduce excess water from the tomatoes. Evaporation equals concentration and the sugar seems to help with this.

I like to make date paste for use as a natural alternative to sweeteners in baking. You can find my date paste recipe here, although the recipe below shows you how to incorporate the dates directly into the dish.

Like with any dish, you need to tweak this simple pasta sauce, as ingredients differ, so experiment with the flavours. If it’s a bit acidic, add some sweetener. Too sweet? Add a little vinegar. Bland? Add more herbs.

Trust your taste buds and most importantly, remember that element of depth, which can be added through reducing down your sauce by allowing evaporation – only partially cover your sauce when cooking, to allow moisture to escape.


Simply Delicious, Simple Pasta Sauce

This simple pasta sauce is so versatile, you can use it for everything from pizza sauce to chicken parmigiana. Because it’s homemade you can also rest easy knowing that all the ingredients are nutritious and contain no ‘nasties’.

  • Author: jcpratten
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 1012 portions 1x
  • Category: Dinner


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 sticks celery (finely chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree/paste
  • 680ml passata, sieved tomatoes or tomato sauce (not ketchup!)
  • 796ml tin diced or plum tomatoes
  • 1tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • Tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 dates, pitted, quartered and soaked* or 1 tbsp brown sugar


  1. If you are using dates to sweeten this, then place them in a small dish and just cover with warm water so they can soak
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or pot, medium heat
  3. Add the chopped celery and onion, give it a stir
  4. Cover, reduce the heat and cook for around 5/10 minutes, stirring occasionally
  5. When your vegetables have softened, add the garlic and stir in for 30 seconds
  6. Add the tomato puree and stir it in to incorporate. Let this cook for a further minute.
  7. Add the passata, tomatoes, rosemary and oregano
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  9. Bring to a low simmer
  10. Remove the excess liquid from the dates and mash them with a fork. If you struggle, add a little of the reserved water
  11. Add the balsamic and date paste/brown sugar
  12. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the skillet, and cook for at least 20/30 minutes, until your sauce has thickened
  13. If your sauce appears too watery, remove the lid completely and if you think it’s thickened too much, allow the pan to sit with the lid fully on (and heat off) for 10 minutes. The condensation from the lid will add some additional moisture. Remember, evaporation = flavour depth
  14. If my sauce is chunky, I tend to just squish the larger tomato pieces with the back of a spoon. However, if you prefer it smoother then pop it in the blender.



Ingredients differ from brand to brand and measurements differ from person to person, so use your taste buds as you cook. My recipes are a guide and don’t need to be followed to the letter. Give yourself the freedom to experiment and cook to YOUR taste, so if you feel your dish needs a bit more of something, add a bit more of that something.



This basic tomato can be used for a myriad of dishes – casseroles, soups, tapenade, eggplant or chicken parmesan, baked eggs, ratatouille, pizza sauce … this list goes on.

The sauce is delicious as is, but some of my favourite additions when I pair it with pasta are:

  • Olives and feta
  • Roasted cherry tomatoes
  • Mushrooms (add and fry these down just before adding the garlic)
  • Grated carrot
  • Jarred, roasted red peppers (chopped and added after the garlic)

Keywords: dinner, easy, sauce, side, lunch, healthy, nutritious

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