Simply Italian

Basic tomato pasta sauce recipe

Michela Chiappa's pasta sauce couldn't be easier to prepare and it's extremely versatile

Michela Chiappa: "This basic tomato sauce, or sugo as it's called in Italian, is a great recipe to make in large quantities and keep in your freezer. You can pull it out and heat immediately from frozen, then eat as it is with pasta. Alternatively, you can add lots of other ingredients to transform it into all sorts of different pasta sauces – one for each night of the week! Find some suggestions below."

Serves 4


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 x 400g cans good-quality chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 organic chicken or vegetable stock cube


  1. Place a saucepan over a medium heat, add a splash of oil and the onion, and cook for 5-10 minutes until softened.

  2. Using the flat of a small knife squash the clove of garlic, add a pinch of salt to create friction and continue pushing down and rubbing the garlic against the board with the knife until you have a paste.

  3. Add the garlic to the onions, cook for a minute, then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and cayenne pepper, and crumble in the stock cube. Mix all the ingredients together and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly and the stock has totally melted.

  4. Serve with your choice of pasta.


  • For an earthy, autumnal treat, soak 20g of dried porcini mushrooms in 600ml of boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain (saving the soaking liquid for risottos, soups and stews), finely chop, and add the mushrooms to the onions a minute before you put in the tomatoes.

  • Try adding olives to the sauce, then tear in some mozzarella before mixing it with your pasta as we have for our farfalle recipe.

  • Fry some anchovies with your onions and garlic, then toss in some olives and capers at the same time as the tomatoes for spaghetti alla puttanesca.

  • Include a pinch of chilli flakes for spicy penne all'arrabbiata, or if you fancy amatriciana sauce, add some crisp pancetta too.

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Simply Italian

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