How to make canned tomato sauce taste homemade

Canned tomatoes

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One of the quickest and simplest tricks I’ve learned in cooking for my picky-eater children (grrr) is how to freshen-up and improve the flavour of one of their favourites - canned tomato sauce (grrr). Pasta dishes are a staple of family weeknight dinners, and store-bought tomato sauces are often over-seasoned and tinny tasting. Yet, they are what my children want and are often what we turn to when time is tight and fresh tomatoes are out of season.

When tomatoes aren’t in season, canned tomatoes are a life-saver. Picked when perfectly ripe and processed quickly, they preserve the flavours of summer all year long. Adding these tomatoes to a canned tomato sauce balances the seasonings of the sauce with the freshness of the canned tomatoes with little effort. For best results use a canned tomato sauce that is relatively plain and good quality canned tomatoes. San Marzano seem to have the best flavour, but any will do.

So, to combat canned tomato sauce fatigue I’ve developed this signature move, what I like to call my tomato sauce trick. What’s great about this quick-fix is that it’s fast, simple and requires no chopping at all. Here’s what to do:

Heat one 680ml can store-bought tomato sauce in a pot over medium heat. Add one 796ml can diced or whole canned tomatoes with the liquid. Bring to a simmer.
Puree using a stick or immersion blender (chunks are the devil for my kids). Add five or six fresh basil leaves and a two-inch slice of orange or lemon rind. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove rind, and basil leaves if desired (“leaves” are also the devil). Taste for seasoning, add in a pinch of salt or pepper if desired. Serve over pasta and enjoy!

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