Site search


The BBB Student Crash Cookery Course - an easy all-purpose pasta sauce

publication date: Aug 25, 2011
author/source: Fiona Beckett
Download Print

There’s absolutely no point in buying a jar of pasta sauce when you can make one yourself really easily for half the price - or less.

The basic version uses just 3 main ingredients.

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic
and 1 x 400g tin of whole or chopped tomatoes, whatever’s cheapest

You simply warm the oil in a saucepan or frying pan, add 1-2 peeled crushed cloves of garlic and tip in the tomatoes and their juice, breaking them down with a wooden spoon or a fork if they’re whole. Leave the sauce to simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes while you cook your pasta (see yesterday's pasta cooking tips - there’s enough sauce for 250g of pasta), season it with salt and pepper and you’re done. (Apart from a bit of grated cheese, obviously - preferably freshly grated Parmesan or Grana Padano*)

Of course you can make it a bit more fancy:

  • You could fry up a chopped onion and/or a bit of chopped bacon or chorizo in the oil before adding the garlic and tomatoes
  • You could make it a bit spicier by adding some paprika, pimenton or a dash of hot chilli sauce (add the ground spices when you add the garlic)
  • You could make it punchier by adding some capers and/or olives if you have some
  • You could chuck in a drained can of tuna or some frozen prawns at the end and heat them through
  • You could add a couple of tablespoons of chopped parsley or, even better, some torn, fresh basil

All of these variations will taste much fresher and more natural than the flavoured pasta sauces you can buy

The other really good quick sauce to make is a carbonara or egg and bacon-based sauce which is usually served with spaghetti or flat ‘ribbon’ pasta like fettucine. You can find a recipe here but you can leave out the cream if you haven’t got any or feel it’s unhealthy.

The key thing is to have the pan off the heat when you add the beaten eggs otherwise it turns out like scrambled egg. And to eat it immediately though that shouldn’t be a problem ;-)

Next: A simple spag bol

When you’re cooking with very few ingredients like this it’s worth making sure they’re good ones so do use freshly grated Parmesan or the similar but cheaper Grana Padano rather than Cheddar which will just make your pasta taste greasy and gluey. And it’s much, much better to grate it yourself off a block rather than shake it out of a tub.


If you've enjoyed this article why not visit the Beyond Baked Beans page on Facebook where you can contribute your own tips and recipes.