Tomato sauce: 3 ways to enjoy it

homemade tomato sauce

There are multiple types of tomato sauce: Marinara, Arrabiata, Amatriciana, Bolognese… This tomato sauce will bring any pasta, rice or pizza to life – promised.

The recipe here is a tomato sauce based on the traditional sofregit or Catalan sofrito. This most basic “sofrito” is usually made by caramelising finely chopped (or grated) onions in olive oil, adding garlic and finally chopped/grated ripe unskinned tomatoes. It is let to simmer until it acquires a jam-consistency, for about 2h. Sometimes, herbs, a little white wine or a picada is added at the end.

picada is not so much a sauce, but a traditional Catalan condiment and culinary technique used in a wide range of dishes (soups, sauces, fish, meat…) to give flavour and texture (thickener). A picada usually consists of:

  • Nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or pinenuts
  • Bread: ideally hard, you can use old bread or fry/bake a toast. This helps when blended.
  • Liquid: oil, broth, hot water, wine…

onions for homemade tomato sauce

Sometimes garlic, spices and herbs such as parsley or saffron are added. The ingredients are blended until they become a rough thick sauce. As you can imagine, there are multiple if not hundreds of ways you could prepare a picada. The most well-known Catalan picada consists of almonds, bread, oil, garlic and parsley. This might remind you of the Italian pesto. Neighbour cuisines like the Occitan, Italian or other Mediterranean ones include similar sauces and condiments.

honey for caramelised onions for tomato sauce

caramelised onions for tomato sauce
Before adding honey
caramelised onions for tomato sauce
After adding honey

There are many right ways of making tomato sauce and very few wrong ones, which makes this recipe an easy one for anyone to try. The recipe I’ve decided to go for is an easier version of the 2h-simmering classic sofrito. Instead of grated ripe tomatoes, I used a jar of BUNALUN crushed tomato passata, which contains only tomatoes and works great. I first made a sofrito of onions and garlic, then added the passata with a small amount of sugar. I let it simmer for 20 mins and finally added some herbs and adjusted with salt & pepper. I was able to use it for different dishes during the week: rigatoni, a rice and quinoa dish with broccoli and also as the base sauce for pizza. I can confirm it works wonders in all three settings.

homemade tomato sauce

homemade tomato sauce homemade tomato sauce

You could make a larger batch (instead of 500g tomatoes, use 1kg) and either store it in the fridge and consume in the next week, or freeze a portion for the future.

homemade tomato sauce

homemade tomato sauce

An alternative would be to skip the cooking and using the passata on its own. But that would take the fun (and added deliciousness) off that comes with making your own sofrito.

I hope you enjoy!


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homemade tomato sauce

Tomato sauce

This tomato sauce will bring any rice, pasta or flatbread recipe to life. It has a sweet and herby flavour, which makes it a delicious condiment. Easy to make and requires very few ingredients and little time.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Spanish
Tags catalan, sauce, sofrito, spanish, tomato
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Silvia Sampere


  • 500 grams plain tomato sauce or grated 5 unskinned tomatoes
  • 2 medium white onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp sugar or any other sweetener


  1. Set a large non-stick pan to medium heat then pour the olive oil.

  2. Finely chop or grate the onions and crush the garlic cloves. Add the onions to the pan, mix until well coated.

  3. When the onions have softened and are slightly transparent, add the garlic. Bring the heat to low and cook for 3 minutes

  4. Add the tomato sauce or chopped/grated tomatoes. Add sugar then stir well. Cover the pan and let it simmer for 20 mins.

  5. Uncover, add dried basil and adjust flavour with salt and pepper. Stir well and let it simmer for 2 mins with the heat turned off.