Use-Me-For-Anything Tomato Sauce, 13p [VG/V/DF/GF]

This tomato sauce is exactly what its name says – a wonderfully versatile sauce for all occasions. I make a large batch and freeze it in small jars or ice cube trays to use as the base for pasta sauces, soups, stews, or anything that could do with a bit of pepping up. It stands alone as a pretty decent pasta sauce, too. This recipe first appeared in my first cookbook, A Girl Called Jack, in 2012, but I have updated it slightly here to reflect the rise in basic food costs, eliminating the red wine vinegar and tomato puree for a simpler splat of tomato ketchup – which does the same job, but far more cheaply. Every day is a school day round here.

Makes approximately 6 generous portions at 13p each

2 tbsp light cooking oil, 3p (£3/3l vegetable or sunflower oil, Sainsburys)
1 onion, 9p (80p/1.5kg, Sainsburys Basics)
2 fat cloves of garlic, 5p (35p/2 bulbs, Sainsburys Basics)
a pinch of chilli flakes, 1p (80p/100g, KTC or Natco brand)
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes or passatta, 60p (30p/400g, Sainsburys Basics chopped tomatoes)
2 tbsp tomato ketchup or puree, 3p (45p/460g, Sainsburys Basics ketchup)

First peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. 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.

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.

‘Use Me For Anything Tomato Sauce’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack.

This blog is free to those who need it, and always will be, but it does of course incur costs to run and keep it running. If you use it and benefit, enjoy it, and would like to keep it going, please consider popping something in the tip jar, and thankyou.

Photography by Susan Bell

Click here for ‘Cooking On a Bootstrap’

Click here for ‘A Girl Called Jack’

Click here for ‘A Year In 120 Recipes’


  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

  3. Just made similar with grated carrot and celery (bought when reduced) to make a multi-purpose sauce.

Leave a Reply