Before getting down to the nitty-gritty however I'll bore you with the story of how I discovered this. Poverty and illness tend to focus the mind. When the two combine it's amazing how resourceful you can be. So, there I was in the wilds of West Cork - two young kids, as sick as a parrot after a lengthy hospital stay, utterly skint, totally isolated and with a mountain of unpaid bills. How, I pondered, could I feed my family for next to nothing? Oh, I couldn't drive either (see aforementioned illness) so needed something that could be rustled up easily with bulk bought ingredients. Honestly, I can't remember how this recipe fell into my lap, maybe it was in the Sunday paper, who knows? But fate sent it my way and I'll be eternally grateful because without exaggeration it damn near saved our lives. My kids (one of whom is hitting 17 now) still love it. We all do. Once 'mastered' you'll be able to rustle up a meal for two for under a euro and save a fortune on all those nasty 'Dolmio' /'Ragu' jars & stir-in sauces that taste vile (due to the horrendous amount of additives, sugar & salt) and cost a fortune to boot. You'll never give your kids tinned spaghetti again either because after tasting this they'll quite rightly refuse to eat it. So do your arteries, gut, offspring and wallet a favour and learn this one. A jar of 'Dolmio' may never darken your kitchen again.
Right then, this is simplicity itself:
Ingredients - Tomato sauce - 4 people
(by the way, I often cook up loads at a time. Plonk it in your old 'Dolmio' jars and store in the fridge for a week or so - make sure the jars are properly sealed of course)
- 2 x Tinned plum tomatoes (decent quality - Lidl ones are grand)
- 1 x Medium onion
- 1/2 tea-spoon sugar
- A decent knob of butter
- A goodly pinch of salt & freshly ground black pepper
That's it - no kidding!
Empty your tins of plum tomatoes into a saucepan. Grab a sharp implement & hack the squidgy blighters (quite satisfying - not sure why - best not over-analysed). Place saucepan on hob and start bringing to the boil. While that's happening peel your onion. Once that's done bung it in the pan with your bubbling tomatoes. Add the knob of butter and give it all a wee shimmy and stir until the butter is nicely melted. Add your generous pinch of salt & pepper. Stand back, admire and turn the heat down low to a simmer. Sniff the air appreciatively because your kitchen smells all tomatoey and nice. Place lid on saucepan and let the whole lot gently bubble for 30 minutes. Read the paper, talk to your children, or crack open the wine - whatever. Do sporadically check to see if the mixture's drying out - if so add a splash of water. Easy eh? Once 30 minutes are up take the saucepan off the hob, remove entire onion and here's where a choice must be made - do you go satisfyingly chunky or slick and smooth? For me it depends what mood I'm in. If you're feeling chunky just mash a little with a fork, if smooth whack the lot into what we call a 'hoosher-upper' (blender to normal folk) and hoosh away for a few seconds. Either way you have a delicious tomato sauce which can be used as the base for any number of recipes or, as we often still do, just cook up some pasta of your choice, pour on the sauce, sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over the top & Bingo - there's the handiest mid-week dinner you ever did see!!!
- Add herbs to taste - either fresh or dried - oregano or basil
- Have a wee taste at the end - chuck in a little more salt & pepper if needed
- A few sparing drops of white wine vinegar give a bit of zing
- A splash of veggie stock works well but if so take it easy with the salt
- I tend to bung in a clove of garlic which is removed with the onion but maybe that's just me
- When served garnish with fresh basil
- Rustle up a nice green or mixed side salad and plonk a baguette or something similar on the table and behold your very own incredibly healthy home-made feast!
Honestly - including bread, side-salad, pasta & the homemade tomato sauce, this lot costs under €5 - that's a great meal at just over €1 per head. If you opt for just pasta & sauce (nothing wrong with that as long as there's loads of it) you can feed 4 people for €2 euros. For us it's a holiday lunch & mid-week dinner staple. What's not to like?
Next time I'll expand on the many uses of No-Brainer Tomato Sauce. Until then...