Foolproof tomato sauce

The easyJet pilot flying us back from Pisa to Gatwick this week earned himself a medal for Tactless Things To Say When About to Leave the Runway. ‘Sorry guys, things are crowded up there….. just too many planes and not enough sky.’ Certain images should never be evoked and that was one of them.

easyJet was the only thing I didn’t enjoy about my week in Italy. I’m infatuated by everything Italian, apart from television and Silvio Berlusconi. I’ve been to Italy countless times but this year, unusually, we barely ate out at all. Italian restaurant cooking seems less good than it was while the fresh food in shops and markets is better than ever.

For an easy lunch we ate pasta with homemade tomato sauce, with either tonno e fagioli or buffalo mozzarella to start.

Foolproof Tomato Sauce

Enough for 4

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes (even though the sauce gets whizzed up at the end, I never buy pre-chopped tomatoes. I always imagine that they must be the mushed up bits of tomato slurry sluiced from the bottom of the tub in the canning factory).

2 good lengths of fresh rosemary – don’t be timid and don’t even think about removing the leaves or chopping them up. It makes it so much easier to hoik the rosemary out at the end

2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar – the rich, treacly variety

2 tablespoons sugar

Salt and pepper

Cook the garlic gently in the oil until soft but not brown. Add all the other ingredients, bashing the tomatoes around a bit as you go. Simmer at a slow bubble for around fifteen minutes. Remove the branches of rosemary and whizz the whole lot up with a stick blender. Eat stirred into pasta or with grilled chicken.

I have a friend who loves tomato sauce so much that he had a rubber stamp made of the recipe and printed it onto the wall by his cooker. I like the idea, but I swear I could make tomato sauce with my eyes shut. I want a rubber stamp with a recipe for osso bucco on it, but I don’t think it would fit.