Use-Me-For-Anything Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce is exactly what its name says – a wonderfully versatile sauce for all occasions. It was inspired by a basic tomato sauce in Economy Gastronomy by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett – which is a brilliant guide to cooking fantastic food on a budget. With mine, I make a batch, eat some, fridge some, and freeze some for later. This makes 6 small portions.

2 tbsp oil (sunflower, vegetable or groundnut are my favourites)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chilli, chopped and deseeded, or a pinch of chilli flakes
2 tbsp red wine or red wine vinegar (optional)
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree or tomato ketchup

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the chopped onion. Stir in the garlic and chilli and cook on a medium heat until the onions are translucent and sweet.

Measure the wine or wine vinegar into the pan and stir for a few minutes on a low heat until the pungent alcohol or vinegary smell subsides. Then add the remaining ingredients to the pan – the chopped tomatoes and the puree or ketchup. Cook gently, stirring occasionally to disturb and prevent it from burning – for 20 minutes, by which time the sauce should be thickened and a gorgeous glossy red.

Remove from the heat and serve, or divide into portions and either put into the fridge, or allow to cool completely before freezing.

TIPS: I usually eat some immediately over 75g of spaghetti (cooked, 75g is the dried weight!). The remainder can be stored in small Tupperware containers, or if you have children, an ice cube tray makes for handy portion sizes for a quick dinner.

Use it as the base for a sort-of ratatouille, by adding any veg from the bottom of the fridge or freezer drawer.

For a lovely savoury flavour, try adding 6-8 anchovies, broken into chunks, with a tablespoon of sliced black olives and a handful of chopped fresh basil stirred in at the end.

‘Use Me For Anything Tomato Sauce’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe, available here.

Jack Monroe.      Twitter: @MsJackMonroe      Facebook:

Photography by Susan Bell

Photography by Susan Bell



  1. I make an adapted version of this that lasts forever – I made enough for about 30 portions for freezing (I portioned it in to 10 freezer bags, completely misjudging amounts, and each was more than enough for 2 huge portions with pasta!).

    2 onions, 2 large carrots, an apple, 2 leeks, 2 mini tins of tomato puree, 2 large jars of passata* and a sprinkle of whatever herbs I could steal from housemates – think I probably ended up with dried basil, oregano, and mixed herbs – bout a tsp in total. 1 garlic clove (also stolen from housemates – oops!) a chicken stock cube I found hiding in the back of the cupboard.

    You can chuck whatever other veg you have lying around in too – think I had half a red pepper and a few mushrooms that went in too. If it looks and tastes far too ‘vegetable-y’ just add some extra tomato puree like I did – I started off with one tin and it wasn’t enough.
    * Waitrose is my nearest supermarket so when desperate I wander in; they had approx. 700ml jars of passata at 2 for a pound and I bought A LOT that day.

    Standard procedure, sweat onions and finely chopped garlic down with a bit of butter/oil/lard/whatever in a big pan on a low heat, cut all veg and the apple (I saw this online somewhere and I couldn’t taste it but I suppose it’s a way to add bulk and use up badly bruised apples) into small pieces and add to the pan, followed by the crumbled stock cube with a small splash of boiling water, adding the passata and puree to the pan, and simmer on a low-medium heat for about half an hour. It’s just so much easier if they’re all plentifully soft!

    I luckily had a big old blender that my nan’s friend gave me when I moved to uni so I blended it all up in a couple of batches once it had cooled a little. Add salt and pepper to taste!

    Over time I’ve added everything on this list with great results: mince, ham, bacon, pancetta, mushrooms, chorizo (squeezed out of its skin and mushed up like mincemeat – mmm). It’s always lovely with some cheeze grated on top – cheddar for the boyfriend and parmesan for me! Yum.

    Can’t be 100% sure on total cost but I didn’t spend more than a few quid on the base ingredients and it really does make a huge amount!

    • That is such a useful post, thanks for sharing. I had left over apricots from jack’s curry recipe so I bunged those in this tomato sauce! I found this recipe to be a bit too sharp for my taste so I also added more water and veg stock cube to calm it down a bit.

  2. sweat off some carrot, celery and onion, then puree and spoon of sugar if needed…makes a great tasty base for meat sauces, bean lasagnes etc. or just a hidden veg sauce for picky toddlers/adults

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