The Cottage Smallholder

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Rich Tomato Pasta Sauce Recipe: for the freezer

Jack's best trussThis spring, my friend Jack told me that he was planning to grow his tomatoes in large pots; some inside his greenhouse and some just outside. The pots would stand on giant trays of gravel to increase humidity. I must admit I was secretly a bit dubious about his method. We’ve not had much success with tomatoes raised in our greenhouse, apart from seedlings. As our 14 outdoor plants flourished during the July heat wave, I wondered what was happening on the tomato front chez Jack.

The cold wet August was clearly a bit of a shock to our tomato plants. By the end of the month they were tatty, spidery and had all but given up. Blight had destroyed a lot of the fruit. They hardly seemed worth watering. But there was hope – I had potted a tomato seedling in the greenhouse and I noticed that it had begun to flourish. Perhaps Jack had been right after all.

I’ve been working at Jack’s house this week while he is away in France. On Monday, I drove in and nipped straight down to his smart, squeaky clean hardwood greenhouse. Tall healthy plants covered with perfect trusses stood smugly, lining the path to the greenhouse. I peered through their branches into the greenhouse. It was dense with thick stemmed, perfectly manicured tomato plants, loaded with healthy fruit. I was, I hate to admit, absolutely gutted.

Next year I’m going to try Jack’s method. When Jack returns from holiday he’ll definitely need the recipe below. The sauce tastes very intense when fresh but don’t panic. It is perfect for freezing as tomato based sauces tend to go a bit watery if frozen and can be very disappointing. This is why we created this recipe. Normally we make gallons of it in the autumn and freeze it in two-portion packs. During the winter we take it out as a base sauce for pasta dishes when we don’t feel like cooking but want an easy, tasty meal. Generally we toss in a handful of other ingredients to suit our mood (see tricks and tips below the recipe for a couple of our favourite combinations). This sauce also can be quickly heated up from frozen if friends drop round unexpectedly. It is never watery.

Our recipe for rich tomato sauce (suitable for home freezing)


  • 1 Kilo of ripe tomatoes (quartered or halved if they are a small variety)
  • 3 medium onions (Peel and chop into one centimetre chunks.)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic (chopped fine-ish)
  • 650g of passata
  • 4 heels of parmesan (4 x 1×2 centimetre blocks of old parmesan will do). This is our magic ingredient. Freeze with the sauce. This is the section closest to the rind that nornally gets tossed away.
  • Good splosh of red wine (at least ½ cup. Medium white wine will do)
  • 1 mild red medium chilly (chopped fine and seeds removed)
  • 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons of good olive oil
  • A handful of chopped fresh herbs (don’t over do this. 1 woman’s handful and half a man’s). We suggest a combination of basil, marjoram and oregano. If you only have dried herbs use 1 teaspoonful for starters and then leave for flavour to develop for five minutes before tasting. Only top up in half teaspoon increments as dried herbs can be really strong.
  • Plastic containers for freezing, with (ideally) lids.
  • Freezer bags.


  1. Pour olive oil into a large heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over a low heat
  2. Add chopped onions, stir to make sure that onions are coated with the oil and then leave to simmer very slowly until translucent. Stir every now and then to stop the onions burning.
  3. Toss in garlic and turn through the onions. Leave for 2 minutes or so.
  4. Add the chopped fresh tomatoes. Stir through to coat with oil and leave for five minutes over a low/medium heat. Stir from time to time.
  5. Pour in passatta. Stir well through the onions and tomatoes. Turn up the heat to medium.
  6. When the mixture is simmering add the chopped herbs, balsamic, Parmesan heels and stir. Leave the sauce to simmer over a low heat until the tomatoes fall apart.
  7. Add a good slosh of wine or water to thin the sauce a little. Simmer for five minutes and then simmer very gently for about an hour until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Keep an eye on it and stir from time to time. If it starts to boil turn it down to a slow simmer. Add more wine or water if necessary. After an hour, taste (the sauce should taste intense and concentrated) and add salt and pepper to taste before removing from the heat.
  8. Allow to cool gradually in the saucepan (lid on). Using a ladle, spoon two full ladles into each freezer container If you don’t have lids, put each container into a freezer bag and seal (you can use these bag to store your tomato sauce). Freeze for 12 hours and put frozen blocks into a labeled, dated freezer bags. Return to freezer to use through the winter.

Tips and Tricks:

Favourite combinations with the rich pasta sauce:

  • Heat the unfrozen sauce using a ring on the top of the cooker (approx. 8 minutes, low heat). When the sauce is simmering throw in three handfuls of fresh spinach leaves, some roasted pine kernels (roast under the grill, medium temperature) and a small handful of chopped gruyere. Stir and leave for 3 mins before pouring over hot, cooked pasta. Always add a decent sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese on each portion.
  • Heat the unfrozen sauce using a ring on the top of the cooker (approx. 8 minutes, low heat). When the sauce is simmering throw in a handful of stoned and chopped black olives and a handful of grilled smoked bacon pieces. Allow to simmer for 5 mins before pouring over hot, freshly drained pasta. Don’t forget to sprinkle a decent handful of grated parmesan cheese on each portion. (You can find bags of uncooked smoked/unsmoked bacon pieces at the supermarket and occasionally at a good butcher’s shop. We freeze these packs into small portions to use with this dish and in a variety of other recipes).
  • IF USING FROZEN TOMATO SAUCE. Heat the sauce very gently, in a saucepan on a ring on top of the oven. Stir every now and then until the tomato sauce is completely unfrozen. You can add to this sauce or just pour over freshly cooked pasta.

  Leave a reply


  1. this sounds very tasty and as my toms; are now turning in i’m going to have a go at makeing this but could some one clarify to me what is a (heel of pamesan) thanks.

  2. Michelle

    Thank you!

  3. Michelle


    At what point do I put them in and if I am freezing some do I leave it in whilst its frozen?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Michelle add it when you add the tomatoes. I freeze the sauce with the parmesan in it.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Michelle

    You cook the sauce with the heels of parmesan in it. Remove before serving.

  5. Michelle

    So what exactly do I do with the parmasen cheese????

  6. This recipe sounds delicious. Lauren – since you are so negative, you can always buy and eat the bottled/canned stuff!

  7. Hello Lauren – have you tried the recipe? It’s absolutely delicious & if you cook it in bulk once the prep is done it cooks all by itself. Don’t knock it till you try it!

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Lauren

    How many ingredients would you suggest?

  9. this recipe has too many ingrediants in it and is a watse of time!!!

  10. Sorry that should read buy in jars

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