Simple Provisions

Food does not need to be fancy to be celebrated

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As you may gather, I like simple recipes. I especially like simple recipes that take pantry ingredients and transform them into a rich, luscious meal that is worthy of note. This one does that using canned tomatoes, the stalwart of the store cupboard.

It’s entirely likely that even if I don’t think I have any tomatoes in the pantry, I can reach in behind the half empty bag of nuts and that wild rice I bought but never used and find a tin or two. I prefer tomatoes that are canned whole rather than crushed or diced. I think this retains the integrity of the tomato and it means I can go wild with my kitchen scissors after I’ve poured them into the pot (extremely satisfying way to chop).

Whenever I am at an Italian grocer, like Eataly in NYC or Mediterranean Wholesalers in Melbourne, I’ll stock up on cans of organic tomatoes ready for recipes just like this one. It’s worth spending a little more on the quality of the tomatoes, as the recipe is so simple, you want the flavour of your tomatoes to be as full as possible.

This recipe takes an hour to cook. But in this magical hour the humble canned tomato turns into a glossy, jam-like sauce that can be eaten straight away on some fresh pasta, or poured over meatballs and placed in the oven to bubble and become a hearty winter meal. It’s the sort of recipe you could throw on the stove while you’re cooking something else, which saves energy for you and the stove. You can then store it in the freezer for the start of a quickie weeknight dinner.

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Simplest (and tastiest!) Store Cupboard Tomato Sauce

Makes about 7 cups, takes 15 minutes to prep and about an hour to cook


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 x 400g tins of whole tomatoes
  • Salt to taste

Place your favourite big pot or skillet on the stove and heat oil over a medium heat.

Add onion, bay leaf, oregano, garlic and some salt and stir regularly until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for another 5 minutes.

Pour in the tinned tomatoes and chop them into pieces using your kitchen scissors. Let it come to the boil then simmer for an hour, stirring every now and then to stop it from sticking.

The sauce is done when the tomatoes have turned glossy and jam like, and you can’t resist taking a big spoonful to your mouth.

(Recipe is from The Meatball Shop in NYC, where you can gorge on cheap and delicious meatballs.)

13 thoughts on “Simplest Store Cupboard Tomato Sauce

  1. indosungod says:

    This looks fantastic. Simply delicious looking. Here in the US we are heading into tomato season and there will be plenty of fresh tomatoes. How do you think this sauce will fare with fresh tomatoes?

    1. Amelia says:

      Thanks indosungod!

      You could use fresh tomoatoes for this recipe. Use the same volume as you get in the can and peel them by cutting an x at the top of each one, dunking them in near boiling water for 10 seconds, then in cold water, then peeling.

      Worth the extra effort if you have a glut of in-season tomatoes lying around, but I wouldn’t buy them especially for this recipe as even Mario Batali uses canned in his basic tomato sauce!

  2. Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I want to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and precise effort to make a very good article… however what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get something done.

  3. Your pictures are to die for. Your blog is so lovely..

  4. So pleased to have found you! Love the recipes, love the photos, love the clarity of the writing….. impact through simplicity! I look forward to more recipes! Loved the tip about how to check the ripeness of avocados, by the way!

    1. Amelia says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. kat says:

    I just love how simple this tomato sauce recipe is!

  6. mollyru says:

    I have been looking for a simple yet delicious recipe for tomato sauce, I am definitely going to try this recipe soon!

    1. Amelia says:

      Great! I promise, it’s a winner.

  7. Salena says:

    Hey, I’m new to your blog and loving it so far. I’m currently making this lovely (so easy!) pasta sauce. I have a question – Do you put a lid on the pot while it simmers for an hour or do you leave it uncovered? Thanks!

    1. Amelia says:

      Hi Salena – welcome! I leave it uncovered. Enjoy!

  8. great recipe, my favorite when I don’t have anything in the fridge to cook up. Always have a can of tomato somewhere in the pantry.

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