It’s Lockdown 3: Here We Bloody Go Again in the UK – and for many people, this means finding new ways to make cheap, easy, tasty, healthy meals. The classic tomato pasta sauce is one of my go-to staples – and the main reason why there’s always a tin of tomatoes in my kitchen. Plenty of people are also time-poor at the moment, especially parents who are once again home-schooling, so a healthy tomato pasta sauce that takes hardly any time is a boon. Lockdown doesn’t automatically mean bags of spare time for a lot of people, especially NHS workers, teachers, supermarket staff, and delivery drivers and riders.

This particular tomato pasta sauce can be adapted depending on what you have in the cupboard and on personal preference. The recipe below is fine, dandy and delicious but for even a vaguely experimental cook, it’s an opportunity to play around, have some fun – or just use up something before it turns to compost in the fridge.

The tinned, chopped tomatoes give instant thickness to the sauce so it’s ideal for the impatient or busy. I like to throw in a load of black olives, like gorgeous, fat, gothic pearls, but feel free to skip those if you’re not an olive maniac like me. Capers or anchovies can be tossed into the pot for salty sharpness. The bacon can be easily substituted with vegetarian, kosher or halal alternatives – or you can add browned mince for an easy bolognese-style sauce. Chopped-up leftover roast chicken works too. Dried chipotle flakes, chilli powder or paprika are great if you want an instant smoky, spicy hit. And don’t panic at the addition of a splash of lemon juice – I find it adds an acidic edge without being overpowering. And, of course, you can always use a splash of wine here instead…

It’s a tomato pasta sauce that can be the basis for all manner of creations.

Easy, economical tomato pasta sauce


1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic

100g mushroom, chopped

1 pepper of any colour, diced

100g pitted black olives – don’t be afraid of the juice in the jar, if a little of that splashes in too that’s fine.

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Dried green herbs to taste – I like a mix of basil, oregano, parsley and marjoram but whatever you have on hand is totally fine


  1. Heat the olive oil or butter in a pot and sautee the onions until soft.
  2. Add the garlic, mushroom and diced pepper and cook for a further couple of minutes over a high heat.
  3. Throw in the olives, tinned tomatoes and lemon juice and mix well.
  4. Finally, add the salt, pepper and green herbs, stir well and serve with pasta. Some grated cheese on top is always a nice touch too – it doesn’t have to be parmesan – again, whatever you have in the fridge is fine.

Leave the first comment