Tomato sauce

with pan-fried courgettes & boiled green beans

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This is a simple enough sauce that surprised me. In that it really didn’t need the salami I had wanted to use up, even though I’d already rendered it off most of its fat. That surprised me as well as it looked very lean. Yet there was a good level dessertspoonful of fat in the pan when it cooled. This would be far better with a roasted green pepper finely chopped and fresh shavings of Grana Padano cheese. Or, at a pinch, venison sausages skinned and allowed to crumble in the pan. Shame one of my local supermarkets are no longer selling their pork sausages with sun-dried tomatoes as they were delicious, and would’ve gone really well with this sauce. Out of curiosity, I checked for venison sausages in the other supermarket this evening and they don’t have them in stock, yet. I’ll definitely be cooking this again, and perhaps use it to fill partially cooked large pasta shells and finish them off in the oven. Here I’ve gone with spaghetti, again, as that’s the only pasta I ever seem to have to hand. And I dread, every time, plating up spaghetti as it can be monstrous to try and get it styled elegantly on the plate. To end I have to thank Anne of Uni Homemaker for inspiring me to try this. Anne’s recipe, Spaghetti Sauce, has to be delicious with her choice of ingredients. Shame I can’t buy Italian sausages here, only salami which I won’t be using in this recipe again. It’s just not the right flavour nor texture to go with pasta. Oh, and I forgot to buy Grana Padano so that’s leftover grated smoked Cheddar in the photos (I’ve since replaced photos) – one of those days. I’ve just forgotten to buy the main ingredient for tomorrows lunch ‘n’ all. :/

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Update: The last time I bought a bag of green beans I wasn’t exactly happy that I noticed brown spots on them the following day, even though they were nice and firm. As I was boiling them I wasn’t worried about it. Until the next day I realised that the brown spots were developing mould. At least a third of them were chucked in the bin. So, regardless of how economical they are this time I decided to blanch them like you would do if wanting to freeze them. To do that put a large saucepan on electric heat No 4 (out of 6) with plenty of lightly salted cold water. Bring that to a boil, carefully drop the beans in, bring back to a boil, reduce heat to No 2, cover with a lid and simmer for just over one minute. Drain immediately into a metal colander. Pour plenty of cold water into the same saucepan, return the beans and get them cold as quickly as possible. So far no spots have appeared. Yay! Just hate having to throw nutritional veg in the bin. :)

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Serves 2

  • olive oil and butter
  • 200g (7.05 oz) x onions, peeled, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 x dried bay leaf, ripped
  • 3 x salad tomatoes, washed and cut in half
  • 1 x green pepper/capsicum, washed and chopped, remove all pith or membrane and seeds and discard those – optional
  • 2 x garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 – 1½ x heaped dst tomato purée (I use 1 only)
  • ¹/3 x tsp cayenne pepper, less to personal taste
  • 100ml (0.21 US pt lqd) x water
  • ½ x organic very low salt vegetable stock cube
  • 6 or more x capers, finely chopped
  • about 4 x pitted black olives per person, sliced into rings
  • pasta, of personal choice
  • fresh parsley, rinsed and either finely chopped or snipped
  • freshly shaved Grana Padano or Parmesan

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  • Put a large heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 3 (out of 6) and when hot pour in enough oil to cover its base. Add the onions and bay leaf and stir through occasionally. When the onions have softened and are beginning to turn a pale golden reduce heat to No 2. Add a splash or two of water if the onions show any signs of drying out. Continue to cook them until nicely golden. Add the chopped pepper/capsicum and continue to cook. Spread them to the sides, reduce heat to No 1, add the garlic and allow a couple of minutes to cook those a little. Unusually for me I added a thin slice of butter at this stage, too. Stir them into the onions and, again, spread them to the sides and add the tomato purée. Allow a couple of minutes for it too cook, or until the oil separates. Be careful to not scorch the tomato purée as it’ll turn out slightly bitter otherwise. Sprinkle over the cayenne pepper and take off heat.
  • Either prep the stock separately or pour the water into the onion mixture and add the half stock cube. Up heat to No 4 and cover with a lid. When at boiling point reduce heat to No 2 and simmer.
  • Add the tomatoes to a separate pan with a little oil and a lid. Put on heat No 2 for most of their cooking time. Remove the lid after about 15 minutes and continue to pan-fry until nicely caramelised. When ready to add them to the onion mixture pour them into a fine wire metal sieve and using a stainless steel soup ladle, or wooden spoon, rub them through, collecting all of the purée from underneath with a wooden spoon. If there’s sediment on base of pan add a splash of water, stir through and pour that through the metal sieve as well. Discard the remaining pulp.
  • When tomato sauce is cooked taste for any needed seasoning. The sauce can be puréed at this stage using a hand held stick blender. Or, at a pinch, rubbed through a fine wire metal sieve. I don’t bother to do either. Even though blending would probably be best.
  • Add the capers and black olives and keep on heat until pasta is cooked to its packet instructions.
  • Serve with a favourite hard cheese, like Grana Padano freshly shaved. Snip some fresh parsley over the plate, too.

Caramelising the tomatoes.

Rubbing the soft tomatoes through a fine wire metal sieve.

All photographs within Feed the piglet:
All rights reserved – Copyright © johnnysenough hepburn

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  1. Looks great but what a shame you can’t get Italian Sausages! – Veal sausages would be heavenly in this! I have mixed feelings about olives (strange as I have a Greek background!) but I find that already pitted olives are too ‘gassy’ – if that makes sense – good whole olives that you slice up yourself is time consuming but the flavour is so much better…always great checking your food :)

    • Thanks for that. I’m limited in the types of olives I can buy. Especially as most of them are coated with something. For cooking I like the ease of the pitted route, and normally only use a few. I know, it’s lazy!
      I suspect that veal is no longer on sale here as I’ve never seen it in supermarkets. That’s why I’m going to wait for venison, as I love most game.

  2. I always forget that people on this blog site are from all over the world and that what is readily available here may not be available elsewhere! – sorry about that! I also need to confess that my father and best friend have olive trees so I rarely buy olives or olive oil for that matter and have about 4 bay leaf trees in my small courtyard! I absolutely love venison and look forward to you posting a recipe as I’ve never cooked it – only eaten out in restaurants :)

    • It’s all too easy to forget – no need to apologise. I lived in Central London for years where it’s possible to find almost any ingredient. Here, I would have to catch a bus to find anything remotely unusual.
      Aren’t fresh bay leaves the greatest to use in certain recipes? So much better than dried. I used to have quite a selection of fresh herbs outside the sitting room door within a large south facing garden. What a luxury!

  3. Thanks for the shout out Johnny! :) I’m bummed that the salami didn’t work out, as I was sure it would. Regardless, your post & photos –everything looks and sounds just divine! The picture alone is making me drool (it’s almost dinner time where I’m at). Venison sausage sounds wonderful in this sauce. I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on it the next time I make this sauce.

    • I’ve never tried venison so it’ll be interesting to see if it works. I’m guessing so as the Italian version of this would use spicy sausages. Besides, I love most types of game. If you can get them, before me, please let me know what you think.
      Yep, I thought the salami was a great idea. As the sauce was so delicate and sweet the capers and black olives were just great. The salami wasn’t so much strong in flavour, just the wrong note.

  4. Looks good, and I also like your “darker” photography with the darker backgrounds. Feels quite befitting to the season as opposed to your (equally lovely) light and airy looking summer food photography.

    • Thanks for that. I’m far preferring the Autumnal look as it’s easier to set up and shoot. Although, if I can’t use my tripod on the table shooting overhead can be difficult – too many slightly blurry shots. I’m cursing the light here most days!

  5. Ok, the problem is I am in a hurry to leave, and I cannot take my eyes off of this dish! It looks irresistible! (Pause to scroll up and take another look). Sigh.. Well done, you made me more hungry. Hope you are happy. Have a great weekend!! How are the Christmas-related stuff going there? ;)

    • Off course I’m happy. I do this partly to annoy people – I’m like that!
      There’s nothing Chrismasy going here. It’s going to be another low key affair. Although I might try to include festive stuff within photos. Hmm…
      Same to you – as in w/end!

    • I don’t eat a lot of it. At the moment I can’t get enough of potatoes. But, I’m planning on cooking this recipe at the start of the week with a green pepper and no salami. And lots of Grana Padano!

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