Monday, 12 September 2011

Student Special: Tomato Sauce 101

Tomato sauces are a classic staple in student cuisine- ideal for thin wallets and fussy eaters. Making the tomato base couldn’t be simpler and it’s a lot more satisfying than hitting up the condiment aisles in the supermarket. Once you’ve got your head round this, you can use the recipe for a huge range of simple suppers.

Save yourself a bit of effort by using tinned tomatoes. Budget friendly and available all year round (as well as deceptively healthy for food that comes out of a can) they should be a welcome addition to any kitchen. Unlike that rogue cucumber, it’s impossible to find a tin of tomatoes in a furry soup like state, hidden in the back corner of the fridge four weeks down the line. I call it an Apocalypse food- and apocalypse foods (hint- anything with a life expectancy longer than yours) can be considered a student’s culinary best friend.

Classic Tomato Pasta Sauce

You will need…

• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 garlic cloves, crushed
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
• 1 tsp sugar (optional)
• A little salt and ground black pepper

In a sauce pan, fry the onion till softened and clear before adding the garlic. Fry for a minute or so then tip in the chopped tomatoes. Add the sugar. (With tomatoes, sugar works in the same way as salt- drawing out and enhancing the flavour.) Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer for five minutes before removing from the heat. At this point, if you prefer it smoother, you could give it a quick blitz in a food processor or using a hand blender. You’re tomato sauce is now ready to go!


Spagetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese is as much a quintessential part of student life as Neighbours and Pot Noodle- without the shame and inevitable regret. Cheap and easy to cook, it makes for a great pre night out stomach-liner as well as a quick and hearty mid-week dinner during revision, or throw together feast for friends.
Turn this sauce into a meal by frying 200g minced beef in a pan until browned. Pour in a half glass of red wine. (This is a great way to use up that left over party wine- cheap enough to make you buy it, too cheap to want to drink…) Simmer until the wine has reduced by about two thirds. Stir in your tomato sauce and sprinkle with dried oregano. Leave to thicken on the lowest flame, stirring occasionally, whilst you cook your spaghetti according to the packet.
When the pasta is done, pile it onto a plate and top generously with pasta sauce, adding a few fresh basil leaves before serving.

Homemade pizzas
Cooking should be an enjoyable and social activity. And when so much of student socialising takes place in the kitchen (It’s the room where the beers kept, boys…) it can be a great way spend an evening with friends. One of my favourite communal cooking experiences is making your own pizza.
Simply reduce the sauce into a thick paste by leaving to simmer away for an hour or so. Add a little tomato puree and dried oregano and spread onto a pre-bought pizza base- you can get these in sets of 2 for £1 from Asda.
And then you have the fun bit; topping with whatever takes your fancy. Mozzarella, tuna, pineapple or mushrooms are all popular options, but you can keep it as simple or make it as creative as you like- or dare!

Chicken Parmesan
Spoon your tomato sauce generously over cooked breaded chicken cutlets (You can by these pre-cooked and coated in supermarkets). Top with slices of mozzarella (approximately half to a whole 125g packet) and bake until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling. Serve with spaghetti or a green leafy salad. It’s as simple as that!



- Cooking the onions in butter instead of oil will prevent them from burning.

- Make your sauce richer by adding a squeeze of tomato puree, or for a slight kick, tomato puree with chilli.
- Why not transform your sauce into something new by adding a few basic other ingredients? Try stirring some spinach into the sauce till wilted then pile onto your pasta and scatter with some chunks of feta cheese. For a Mediterranean vibe, top with chopped black olives and pine nuts.
- For meat lovers (and red blooded males) fry some chopped up pieces of bacon in with the garlic and onions whilst making the sauce, for a smokier, meatier finish.


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