The Meal Planner

Jamie Oliver's book Jamie's Dinners is divided into interesting chapters, more than just appetizers, meats, and desserts, one of them being Family Tree Recipes. Jamie gives a basic parent recipe and then ideas for 5-10 different recipes the original could be used in. It's a wonderful concept and provides inspiration for your own spin offs and creations.

After eating this simple tomato sauce, I wanted to cook and consume every single one of the kin recipes. I still might. Scratch that. I WILL.

Recipe from Jamie Oliver - Jamie's Dinners

Serves 4

Olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano or chopped fresh basil stalks
1 whole red chili
28 oz can whole plum tomatoes (good-quality Italian ones are best)
Salt and pepper
1 tsp red wine vinegar

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add some olive oil and fry the garlic, oregano (or basil stalks) and whole red chili. Pierce the red chili first so it doesn't explode. It will give a subtle heat to the sauce. Saute just a minute or two until fragrant then add the canned tomatoes. Do not mash the tomatoes, as the seeds can be bitter and if you chop them up right away the sauce won't be as sweet as it should be. Lightly season with salt and pepper, turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the chili.

Break and mash the tomatoes up with a spoon, season the sauce more carefully with a bit more salt and pepper, and add a tiny swig of red wine vinegar just to give the sauce a little twang. It is now ready to serve with pasta, or stir in some additions to take this sauce forward:

  • Spicy Arrabiatta - start the tomato sauce off by adding a few more whole fresh chili's. After the sauce has simmered for 15 to 20 minutes, remove the chili's, chop them up and add back as much as you need to give your arrabiatta the desired heat.
  • Tomato Basil - a real crowd-pleaser can be made by taking the tomato sauce off the heat when it's ready and adding a big handful of torn fresh basil, a nice swig of balsamic vinegar, a good knob of butter and a handful of grated Parmesan. This is fantastic with pasta like rigatoni or tagliatelle, or with grilled meats and fish.
  • Puttanesca - simmer the sauce gently with a handful of good pitted and squashed olives, a couple of anchovies and a handful of capers. You can take this in a different direction by flaking in a can of tuna when the sauce is ready.
  • Tagliatelle, Spinach & Goat Cheese - Cook tagliatelle in a pot of salted boiling water while the sauce is simmering. Just before the pasta is ready, stir in a large handful of spinach into the tomato sauce. Drain the pasta saving a bit of the pasta water, and toss with olive oil and the reserved water, then pour your spinach and tomato sauce over top. Toss and top with grated Parmesan and crumbled goat cheese.
  • Fish or Chicken, Olives and Basil - Pour your warmed tomato sauce into a small baking pan and put a couple of fish fillets on top. If you prefer to use chicken breasts, brown them first in a little oil before placing them on top. Sprinkle with some pitted olives, capers and basil leaves and top with a little torn mozzarella, and place in the oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes until the fish is cooked. If using chicken breasts they will need about 20 minutes.
  • Sausages Baked in Tomato Sauce - Pour your warmed tomato sauce into a baking pan or oven proof dish. Take some nice sausages, toss them in a little olive oil, then place them on top of the sauce and cook at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the sausages are golden and crisp on top. Throw whole basil leaves on top to serve. The sausages will be nice and juicy on the bottom from the sauce and lovely and crisp on top. To turn it into a cassoulet, add a can of beans such as cannellini, flageolet, haricot or chickpeas and chunks of bacon before you bake.
Click here for printable version of Simple Tomato Sauce

Click here for printable version of Tomato Sauce Variations


This is the best tomato sauce ever. It is SO worth it to go out of your way and look for good quality Italian tomatoes for this recipe. I made the recipe once using the a regular can of tomatoes (not Italian), and the sauce just wasn't as sweet.

The first time I tried this sauce it was made by my friend Tara, who stirred in some chopped basil and cream to blush the sauce. She mixed it into some penne and I swooned and drooled and exclaimed it was the best pasta sauce I had ever eaten. That was over 2 years ago. I'm not sure why I waited so long to make this myself!

When I made this sauce myself, I turned it into the Tomato Basil variation where balsamic, Parmesan, butter and basil were stirred in and served it on tagliatelle. So wonderful. You can taste the difference the quality ingredients make. So sweet, rich and addicting.

I saved about a cup of the sauce and made Sausages Baked in Tomato Sauce the next night, using hot Italian sausages. The flavors and oils in the sausages cook down and release into the sauce making it completely irresistible. I served it with roasted potatoes the first night, and the sauce kind of acted as a fancy ketchup for dipping the potatoes and bites of sausage into. The next day for lunch I served the leftover sausages and sauce with the leftover tagliatelle. My husband told me I need to make him that pasta dish for the rest of his life.

I never want to make another tomato sauce again. I love Jamie's suggestions for what to do with the sauce and find myself drooling over ALL of them. This recipe is worth going out of your way to find the Italian tomatoes, making a huge batch and freezing it in baggies to try his variations or in your own concoctions. Try this!

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4 Responses
  1. Wow - this looks awesome. Thanks

  2. Vicki Says:

    I have been looking for this kind of "recipe" for a long time - I don't do well without something spelled out for me in the kitchen, but I love how I can "twist" the main ingredients & come up with a few different recipes. Thx for posting!!

  3. Wow. These look great. I grow my own paste tomatoes to make sauce and I am always on the hunt for new recipes. There are so many new options to me here that are very exciting. Can't wait for my tomatoes to ripen so I can try these out.

  4. Vicki - I agree, I love that feature from this cookbook! It's pretty annoying when chefs or cookbooks say how the possibilities are endless with a particular recipe....just tell me the endless possibilities!