I have to start with Nicholas’ favourite meal – pasta in a tomato sauce. He eats it a lot for lunch and I think he’d happily eat it day after day after day. It never fails. It’s quick and easy and very versatile. You can use the tomato sauce with rice, cous cous, lentils, add vegetables, add meat. It’s one of the things I most like to have in the freezer because it can turn some mundane ingredients into something much more interesting.
Although I use a little olive oil in Nicholas’ food now that he’s had his first birthday, when he started eating I wanted to feed him as naturally as possible and so avoided oil, salt and sugar. I started using my microwave a lot more to steam vegetables rather than boiling lots of the nutrients away in a saucepan. I worked out an easy way to cook onion in the microwave and I’ve continued using the method because I don’t have to stand over a pot stirring and making sure I don’t burn the pieces (I very rarely manage not to have some degree of ‘caramelisation’ while attempting to soften onions over the stove!).
I chop the onion finely, simply so it cooks quicker in the microwave. You don’t have to worry about chopping the tomatoes and basil very small because the sauce is blended in a food processor after it’s cooked. By blending it you also don’t need to worry about big pieces of tomato skin as they’ll be broken up.
TOMATO PASTA SAUCE
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 – 20 mins
Makes about 400 ml
1/4 onion, finely diced
3 tbsp water
6 tomatoes, roughly chopped
Approx. 5 large basil leaves, roughly torn or chopped
Put the finely diced onion and water in a small microwave-safe bowl and cook on medium for 2 mins until the onion is transparent.
Transfer the onion and cooking water to a small saucepan and add the tomatoes (and a pinch of salt if you want).
Cook over a medium-low heat (a light bubbling boil) for approx. 10 mins or until the tomatoes have softened. If it’s looking a bit dry, add more water; if you don’t think the sauce is thick enough, cook it for longer to reduce it.
Turn off the heat, leaving the saucepan on the stove, and add the basil. Leaving it to cool for a few minutes allows the basil to infuse the sauce.
Blend the sauce in a small food processor until the tomato skins and basil have broken up into small pieces. Add to pasta with or without a drizzle of olive oil and with or without some grated cheese.
- use red onion or shallots for a lighter and sweeter oniony flavour
- use dried oregano or dried basil
- add some salt for an adult pasta sauce
- eat with rice or couscous or lentils
- use as the base of a casserole
What other ways would you use this sauce?