Recipes - Vegetarian

Homemade ‘no nasties’ pasta sauce

Growing up I wasn’t at all an adventurous cook. Rather I took pride in mastering a few basic recipes and then cooking them over and over again. One of these recipes was a good old ‘spag bol’. When it came to my spaghetti bolognese I don’t remember following an actual recipe. In fact I’m sure I didn’t – my cookbook collection was non-existent and this was before the internet arrived. I simply started with an onion and garlic base and then added browned mince meat and pasta sauce. Of course my teenage spag bol days were a long time before my ‘no processed or packaged food’ diet – so, back then, ‘Dolmio’ pasta sauce always worked a treat.

Homemade pasta sauce with red wineToday I wouldn’t even consider using one of the branded pasta sauces you can find in any supermarket. Because they’re typically high on added ‘nasties’ – like refined sugar. I’ll agree that in the realm of processed foods there are far greater evils than pasta sauce, but nevertheless when it’s easy to make at home with saintly ingredients there’s no excuse to take shortcuts. What’s even better is that you can make big batch at the weekend, keep half for a quick midweek meal and then freeze the rest.

Homemade pasta sauce – with red wine & eggplant

I’m hoping this post inspires you to give homemade pasta sauce a go. The red wine isn’t essential – it can be easily substituted with a little balsamic vinegar or some dried and soaked porcini mushrooms – both of which, like the wine, give the end sauce an extra wow factor.

Homemade pasta sauce with red wine


These quantities will make enough sauce to serve 6-8 people.

  • 1.2 litres tomato passata
  • 6-8 garlic cloves
  • 3 medium onions
  • 1 medium-large eggplant/aubergine (optional)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (or basil)
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 cups red wine (or 2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 cup water
  • Olive oil


  • Finely chop the onions and garlic and cook them in a large pot with a little oil until soft.
  • Add the herbs, bay leaves, red wine and water. Cook until the liquid reduces by about half.
  • Add the tomato passata, chilli flakes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
  • Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook at 150C for 2-3 hours. If you’re using eggplant/aubergine chop it into small cubes and add it about an hour before the end of the cooking time.
  • If you’re short on time you could simmer on the stove and reduce the cooking time – but I find that 2-3 hours in the oven makes for an extra rich pasta sauce.

Homemade pasta sauce with red wineGoing back to where I started this post, with my childhood memories of spag bol, I’d love to know – what were your favourite childhood recipes that you’d approach very differently today?


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22 thoughts on “Homemade ‘no nasties’ pasta sauce

  1. Great recipe, Laura. I too put red wine in my spag bol sauce but I love your addition of aubergine, which is one of my favourite things to eat. My mother made the most delicious smoked fish pie when I was growing up. Now that winter approaches it’s on my list to give this fantastic pie a revamp.

  2. Looks lovely! I’m with you… homemade everything! My pasta sauce is filled with all sorts of vegetables but I have never thought to include aubergine… I will have to try this one!

  3. I almost never use ready made sauces but sometimes they work too! Saying that they are never as good as a sauce cooked from scratch! It sounds full of flavor and so good 🙂

    • Hi Petra – I agree sometimes a ready made sauce is called for because of needed ease or time saving – in which case I always find it’s worth label checking to find the best one you can with the least ‘nasties’ added!

      • hi Laura
        Absolutely! There are so many hidden ingredients in the food that are unnecessary but some brands are great when you want to take a shortcut 🙂

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