Simple as you like – and trust me you will like. This easy tomato sauce is perfect on spaghetti (though it goes well with other pasta shapes too) and works in many different scenarios. Get the seasoning right to balance any acidity…
Make the sauce: Put a heavy-bottomed pan over a gentle heat. Add two-thirds of the oil then the garlic and chilli flakes. Let it warm through to soften the garlic for 2 minutes or so (colouring will turn it bitter).
Add the chopped tomatoes directly. If using whole plum tomatoes, squish them in with your fingers or break them up with a wooden spoon.
Add the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Stir well. Bring to the boil then lower to a simmer and cook for 10–20 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the pasta: Put a large, covered pan of water with a pinch of salt and a glug of oil on to boil.
Add the pasta and cook until al dente (check your packet for timings).
Finish the sauce: Season to taste, add a little more sugar if it’s sharp or a drop of lemon juice or balsamic to brighten it. Add the remainder of the olive oil.
Drain the pasta into a colander. Tip it straight back into the pan and add the butter and a little black pepper. Stir in the sauce.
Stick a large fork into the pasta. Twirl to hook a reasonable amount. Lift and place onto plates or into warm bowls. Or grab it out with a pair of tongs.
Scatter over some parmesan, top with a few basil leaves, if you like, and serve with bread or garlic bread and a rocket salad with balsamic dressing.
CHILLI AND BACON TOMATO SAUCE
Blitz a can of chopped tomatoes. Fry a handful of diced bacon/pancetta with 1 diced small onion, a diced chilli and a diced garlic clove. Add the tomatoes and cook as before.
RAW TOMATO SAUCE
Chop a handful of good vine or cherry tomatoes. Spoon out the seeds and roughly chop. Marinate in a mix of 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp wine vinegar with a few torn basil leaves or a bit of chopped parsley to taste. Alternatively, toss with a few chopped olives, ½ tsp drained capers and a drizzle of olive oil. Leave for 30 minutes. Toss into hot spaghetti.
From Sam Stern’s Cookery Course for Students in the Kitchen (Quadrille)
Photograph by Chris Terry