Marco Pierre White's tomato sauce

Marco’s essential tomato sauce recipe

By BBC Maestro

Nothing beats a hearty tomato sauce. The spritely combination of fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic and fresh herbs… what’s not to love?

In this article, Marco Pierre White reveals a secret recipe for a classic passata, from his online cooking course, Delicious Food Cooked Simply.

So whether you want to elevate your pasta alla Putanesca, liven up a nourishing stew or add a twist to your homemade pizzas, read on to find out how to make a tomato sauce fit for hundreds of recipes.

The history of Italian tomato sauce

For centuries, chefs and home cooks across the world have squashed, pressed and strained the humble tomato to create purées, sauces and soups.

From Mexico to Italy, and all the way to India, different recipes have been made to suit the taste palates of local communities. Perhaps the most famous for their tomato sauce though, is Italy. In fact, the first tomato recipe was recorded in Lo Scalco alla Moderna, a cookbook by Antonia Latini published in 1692 in Naples.

Ever since, Italians have been coming up with their own recipes – adding dried basil, oregano and garlic to the mix, for example. But, as Marco Pierre White says in his BBC Maestro cooking course, “every restaurant in the world has its secret. And this secret, I was taught 20 years ago, by the first Italian chef to win 3 stars in Michelin.”

Watch the full lesson below and follow along with the instructions to create a flavourful tomato sauce you’ll use again and again.

How to make tomato sauce


  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion – peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic – peeled and grated
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1.5kg of cherry tomatoes – halved
  • 1kg quality tinned tomatoes

Follow the instructions or watch the video below to see Marco himself create this flavourful tomato sauce you’ll use time and time again.


Pre-heat your oven to 150 C / Fan 130 C / Gas mark 2.

Heat a generous amount of oil in the base of a large, deep saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the onions and garlic and cook until softened.

Add the thyme and bay leaf, and continue to stir and fry.

Add the tomatoes, and cook until they begin to break down. Begin slowly to allow the tomatoes to release their liquid, and then increase the temperature.

From now on, you must taste, taste and taste. You are seeking the flavour that you desire. The acidity of the tomatoes will slowly evaporate as their natural sweetness takes over. When you are happy with the sweet flavour of your sauce, add in the tinned tomatoes and stir to combine.

Bring the ingredients up to a gentle boil, cover with a cartouche, then wrap the lid of your saucepan in tin foil and place that on top.

Slide the pan into your preheated oven and cook for one hour. After one hour, carefully remove the saucepan from the oven and then pass the sauce through a conical strainer. Forcibly push the liquid through using the back of a ladle. Continue until what is left in the colander is almost dry. Scrape the husks from the colander and repeat until all the sauce has been passed.

Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Learn to cook with Marco Pierre White

Roll up your sleeves and get ready to cook up a storm. In this online cooking course you'll learn all the secrets of this famous Michelin starred chef.

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