Tonight’s supper: Classic Penne al’arrabiata

Classic Tomato Pasta with a spicy twist

Classic Tomato Pasta with a spicy twist - Credit: Archant

A classic tomato penne pasta recipe for a speedy supper

Fresh tomatoes and basil leaves are the main ingredient to this dish

Fresh tomatoes and basil leaves are the main ingredient to this dish - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As with any recipe this basic, tomato sauce is there to be manipulated, manhandled and made your own. Tweek any number of ingredients and you’ll still have a winner. Add more garlic if you want to make it more pungent, or balsamic or red wine vinegar, or freshly squeezed lemon, to give it a tartness. Swap the basil for fresh parsley or oregano, or cook the veg with fresh rosemary. You can even use dried herds if you want to give it a bigger punch. Kids tend to prefer it sweeter and adults a bit more sour, with a stronger tomato flavour. You could, of course, swap the sugar for double cream instead and keep everyone happy. Whatever you do, this sauce is simple, easy and has what I like to call ‘Maximum Umami’.


1 Red onion

1-2 Cloves of garlic

1 Sweet Red pepper

8 Small Pomodoro Tomatoes

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1 Teaspoon of Concentrated Tomato Puree

Classic Tomato Pasta with a spicy twist

Classic Tomato Pasta with a spicy twist - Credit: Archant

1 Tin of Italian Plum Tomatoes

1-2 Tsp of sugar

Olive oil



Fresh basil


Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a deep sauté pan and put on a low heat. Peel and finely chop the red onion and add to the oil. Finely chop the sweet red pepper, then peel and chop the garlic cloves. Add the sweet red pepper and garlic to the now translucent onion and continue to fry. Half each pomodoro tomato and add to the pan. Add the teaspoon of tomato puree. Continue to cook the vegetables until they are tender, but not browned (I use a lid on the pan to collect the steam and help them sweat down gently). Add the tin of tomatoes and the sugar, salt and pepper before chopping and adding in a handful of fresh basil. Cook the tomatoes down for a few minutes before transferring the whole pan into a blender. Blitz into a smooth sauce then push through a sieve, back into the sauté pan, discarding any pulp left behind in the sieve. Continue to cook the sauce on a low heat for a further twenty minutes until any watery liquid has evaporated and you are left with a rich and unctuous sauce.

This sauce is extremely versatile. It goes perfectly with any pasta, on its own, or as the basis for a Bolognese sauce, meatball sauce, etc. It is perfect for using on the base of pizzas, or simply as a tomato bread. It would go equally great with seafood, fish, chicken, on grilled mushrooms, or a steak. Use it as a base for a chilli or a soup, or leave it chunky, add some spices, sweetcorn, lemon or lime and it makes a wonderful salsa as a generous side dish or relish for any barbeque. Splash all over tortilla chips with some melted cheese and you’ve got nachos. Add chilli and ginger with the garlic, add a mix of Asian spices and swap the basil for coriander and you have the makings of a curry. Cook the sauce in batches, by doubling or trebling the ingredients and it can be frozen and stored in the freezer until you require it and all it then needs is defrosting and reheating. Bon Appétit!

Ewen MacDonald is a regular contributor to Cornwall Life magazine.

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