The never consistent Tomato


A theme in a lot of my cooking is something that is a horror to any professional and an absolute nightmare for any chain – inconsistency.

Now, I don’t try to be inconsistent, it’s just the way it is sometimes. Certain days I’ll have lots of basil and no spinach, pecorino and no Parmesan, kidney beans rather than black beans. I flex the recipe to suit what’s available and sometimes just to see what different accents taste like.

The biggest offender is my tomato sauce recipe. Always tomatoes, but sometimes fresh and sometimes canned. Usually onions, carrots, garlic and celery, but sometimes one or two missing. Stock of some sort. Herbs of a description. Vinegar, lemon juice, tomato paste or something similar to balance out the acidity (I think it’s what that stuff does). Usually also a small twist. This version uses fennel seeds.

What I’m trying to get at is – don’t worry about it, just cool low and slow and you’re bound to get something great tasting to slip over pasta, rice or whatever you want.

Tomato sauce with fennel seeds


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • Vegetable stock
  • 1 can tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar


  1. In a medium pot, soften the onions with garlic in vegetable oil (preferably olive oil)
  2. Add in carrots and celery and soften as well
  3. Stir in fennel seeds
  4. Add in tomatoes and stock (diluted in water)
  5. Add in herbs, vinegar and salt and pepper. Use dried herbs if you don’t have the fresh version
  6. I like to let it simmer for at least an hour, but 20-30 mins will do in a pinch. If I do it longer, I’ll occasionally add in a bit of water
  7. I frequently freeze about half of it for later use. I just top up with a bit of water and fresh tomatoes to stretch it out if necessary


Definitely because I wrote this post earlier, I cane home and made a tomato sauce. To illustrate the flexibility, there are no fennel seeds in this one, plus I added lemon, honey and fresh sage (I read somewhere that it was some sort of Italian food sin to put sage in a tomato sauce, but I had fresh sage to use and didn’t want it wasted). Hopefully it tastes good when it’s all done and served with spaghetti.


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