basic tomato sauce

Even though in Italy we have some of the best tomatoes in the world, good quality tomatoes are not available throughout the year. Canning tomatoes during peak production has been a long standing Italian tradition. When I was a kid we spent one week every August canning 200 kg/400 pounds of tomatoes for the winter.

Nowadays one can buy excellent preserved tomatoes. However,  to select a good product it is necessary to follow a few rules :

  1. Read the label. There should be no sugar added. Inferior quality tomatoes are sweetened to mask their unpleasant acidity and lack of flavor
  2. Texture. Puree, diced or simply peeled, preserved tomatoes should be thick, almost creamy. This way it is possible to cook them for the briefest time to keep a fresh taste or to use them for pizza without cooking them first.
  3. Plain. Do not buy tomatoes added with herbs or other condiments. Add the condiments yourself so you can control the quality. Cooked herbs loose most of their flavor anyway  and often only taste like hay!

The product below is only one of those I use on a regular basis, it is excellent but there are many others.

thick and sweet with no sugar added
a good tomato product: thick and sweet with no sugar added

Once you have your perfect tin of tomato and some good extra virgin olive oil you can prepare this lovely sauce


  • One 400 gr./12 ounces  can diced tomato
  • 2 tablespoon white wine
  • 1 medium size onion thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoon parsley, very finely chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 300 gr. spaghetti, penne or other short pasta

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, cover and saute over slow fire until soft and slightly caramelized. Increase fire and, when the onion is sizzling, add white wine and reduce quickly. Lower fire again, stir in the chopped tomato, cover and cook for approx. 10 min until slightly thick.

Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions. Strain, stir in the fresh parsley, stir in the sauce and about one teaspoon EVO oil per person. Serve immediately with grated cheese on the side if desired.

You can substitute onion with garlic and parsley  with basil as in the fresh tomato sauce . Only use onion and garlic together if you want a sweeter taste. This is suitable e.g. to fish based sauces. Otherwise please only one species of herb at the time!

Serves 2-3.

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