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.