Making use of yellow sticker bargains!
I love a yellow sticker bargain; sometimes, you are in the right place at the right time! This was one of those times as my local supermarket was offering dozens of packs of fresh tomatoes at just 6p per pack! Tomatoes are so expensive these days, and these were usually £1.20 per pack, so I snapped up 5 packs immediately! As a family, we actually don't eat many tomatoes; in fact, virtually zero fresh tomatoes are consumed in our house; however, we do eat a lot of tomato-based sauces, and as I enjoy making my own sauces, grabbing tomatoes at such a low price could only mean it was going to be time to cooking!
I make this homemade tomato sauce reasonably often as I have a daughter who has to follow a gluten, sugar and dairy-free diet, and that's hard to cater for; luckily, this sauce ticks all the boxes! Not only that, this delicious sauce beats store-bought sauce hands down; it has so much flavour, and as you only add fresh ingredients and no artificial flavourings or preservatives, it is likely to far healthy as well!
It's a straightforward tomato sauce recipe; it's just a couple of steps and doesn't take much time to prepare. You can use any tomatoes to make the sauce: fresh yellow tomatoes, plum tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, red tomatoes, ripe tomatoes, or slightly less ripe tomatoes; it doesn't really matter; they don't have to be the best tomatoes if you have some less than perfect looking tomatoes, use them too! It's ideal for anyone who grows their own tomatoes, as often during tomato season, you end up with a glut of fresh summer tomatoes, and there are only so many tomatoes a person can eat, so this is an excellent way of using them up!
To make the classic tomato sauce, first things first, give the tomatoes a good wash, especially if they are a yellow sticker deal or from the garden, to be sure they are all clean and make it easy to see any tomatoes that may not be of an edible standard you can remove those.
Chop up a couple of onions and lay on a baking tray. Add garlic and any fresh herbs you may have. I picked up a couple of packs of basil for 7p a bunch and so used them; plus, I also had yellow sticker onions, so I added those to the tray; after all, basil and tomatoes are best friends!
Chop up a couple of onions and lay on a baking tray, large skillet, or pan. Add fresh garlic cloves if you have them; dried or powdered garlic works fine as well, and any fresh herbs you may have. I picked up a couple of packs of fresh basil for 7p a bunch, and so used them; plus, I also had yellow sticker onions, so I added those to the tray; after all, basil and tomatoes are best friends!
Lay the tomatoes on top of the onions and herbs. If you don't have fresh herbs, that's not a problem. You can use any dried herbs you fancy; oregano and basil work brilliantly, and most supermarkets offer an Italian seasoning mix, which contains loads of yummy herbs that work so well with this simple sauce and is also cheaper than buying lots of different herbs. If you like a spicier tomato sauce, you can also add some red pepper flakes or dried chillies for a little heat. Once you have this done, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, if you have it, or any other kind of oil over your ingredients and add a splash of balsamic vinegar or ordinary vinegar if you don't have balsamic and then sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and black pepper. Don't go crazy, though; you can always add extra seasoning later, but you can't take it back out! You don't need to add any extra liquid.
Roast the tomatoes in a pre-heated medium-heat oven for around 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have wrinkled up and the juices have built up in the bottom of the tray.
Scrape the tomato mixture into a saucepan, ready for blending. You can use a food processor if you don't have a hand blender to do this.
Blend the tomato mixture until the sauce is of the consistency you like. If you want a chunky sauce, you will only need to blend it for a few seconds until the large chunks of vegetables have been broken down. If you prefer a smooth sauce, then blend for longer. The longer you blend, the lighter the sauce will become. If you like it smooth and deep red, then add some tomato paste as well, and this will keep the colour a darker shade of red.
Now, you have a homemade fresh tomato sauce ready to go! I've used the whole tomato in this recipe, including the skin and seeds.
Much of this will have been broken down in the cooking and blending process, resulting in a chunkier sauce. Not everyone likes a chunkier sauce; if so, using a sieve, you can strain the sauce into another bowl, pan, ladle, or wooden spoon to push the mixture through the sieve. This will remove the skin and seeds and leave you with a smooth tomato sauce with no bits!
Once you have your sauce, it's time to give it a taste test. Chances are you will need to add additional seasoning, such as salt and pepper; if so, add a little salt at a time and check again. If the sauce is a little too sharp, you can add some brown sugar, which will sweeten the sauce, reducing the tartiness. You can also add some tomato puree if you want some extra tomato flavour, and it is a personal preference; I prefer to leave it as is, but others like a stronger tomato taste. Do this in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in the puree until it is dissolved and mixed in well.
Once your homemade sauce is ready, it can be used immediately or pop it into an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. This sauce is also suitable for freezing. Freeze the sauce in family or individual-size portions in freezer bags or containers. Before doing this, ensure the sauce is cool; ideally, chill the sauce first. Once frozen, it will last up to a year in your freezer. You can also jar up the sauce and 'can' it, which involves using glass jars and preserving the sauce. This means you can keep jars of your homemade marinara sauce in your cupboard, just like you might buy them from the supermarket, for later use. I won't go into the 'canning' process in this post, but I have explained the process in this blog post.
My cost for this was as follows:
5x Pack of yellow sticker tomatoes = 35p
2x Yellow sticker onions = 10p
2x Packs of yellow sticker basil = 14p
1x Yellow sticker head of garlic = 5p
Dried herbs & oil = 20p
Total ingredient cost = £0.84p
This made around 2 litres of sauce, which is about 10 portions, and so worked out at around 9p per portion.
The final cost will differ depending on what price you have paid for your ingredients, as you may not always be lucky enough to make the entire dish with yellow sticker bargains. If you don't have or can't afford fresh tomatoes, they are expensive these days, but if you still like the idea of making your own sauce, all is not lost! You can create an easy sauce using canned tomatoes, tinned tomatoes or passata very easily. You can read how to make this in another of my blog posts here. Making homemade sauces with lots of flavour and fresh ingredients is a great way to make use of excess produce, whether homegrown or excess yellow sticker food, from supermarkets. I find this type of recipe is the easiest way to make a yummy, savoury sauce that you use as the base for a range of different sauces and recipes. No matter if you're adding ground beef for a simple homemade spaghetti sauce recipe, using the sauce as is for a quick vegetarian pasta sauce, or even using the sauce as a tomato soup served with fresh bread or older bread that has been cubed, tossed in a bit of oil and baked in the oven or air fryer and turned into delicious homemade croutons, this versatile tomato sauce is one of the best things for a delicious meal. You can add other veggies to the tray of tomatoes as well, such as diced carrots, celery and peppers. This fully loaded pasta sauce is a great way to add extra flavour to a sauce and extra nutrition. It's also a great way to 'hide' vegetables from the children as I know from experience that many children won't eat vegetables but will eat pasta sauce, so by whizzing these extra vegetables into the sauce, you are at least getting some vegetables into their diet; plus it's a great way to use up vegetables that are longing to be used in the fridge, reducing food waste and ensuring your using everything you've paid for; maximising your food budget!