How to make tomato pasta sauce with Theo Randall

Celebrity chef Theo Randall shares his ultimate tomato pasta sauce recipe and his tips on how to make sure you have the best balance of garlic to basil ratio...

Theo Randall
(Image credit: Future)

This fresh tomato pasta sauce recipe by Theo Randall, celebrity chef from the InterContinental hotel, is the real deal. Using only five ingredients, we are sure it will be a winner with the whole family thanks to its sweet flavour and rich finish.

Serve with your choice of pasta, tortelloni, gnocchi, or ravioli, it really couldn't be an easier mid-week meal and is one of our favourite cheap family meal ideas if you're trying to cook on a budget. 

Topped with a good glug of olive oil and basil, this fresh tomato pasta sauce couldn't be more delicious. Chef Theo Randall specialises in Italian cuisine and shares his best tip with us on how to make the ultimate sauce; "do not believe the myth that all Italians use lots of garlic in their recipes. While they do use garlic, they often use it much more subtly than people think, and in this sauce, it is about balancing it with the fresh basil."

Once you have mastered this tomato sauce, you can experiment with it such as by adding meat, prawns, as well as your choice of veggies. Also, if you want to give it a bit of spice, why not add some chilies or dried chilli flakes? Topped with Parmesan cheese, this dish is the ultimate Italian recipe.

Preparation: This super simple recipe really does not require much preparation but before you start, we recommend making sure you have a deep saucepan or casserole pot as well as a blender or hand blender.

Theo also advises that you check the garlic you are going to be using by squeezing it before you start the recipe. If your garlic is firm then it is perfect to use, but if it cracks and is soft on the inside, that means the garlic is too old. Alternatively, if you don't have any garlic in the fridge or want to use cupboard items, you could instead use garlic granules. Although, this may not give the strongest garlic flavour to your pasta sauce.

Also, if you wanted you could get ahead by cutting your tomatoes in half and blending them before starting your recipe so that your tomato mixture is ready to go.

Watch how to make the best tomato pasta sauce with Theo Randall


  • 4tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 500g ripe fresh tomatoes
  • 600g tomato passata
  • 1 clove garlic, finely sliced
  • 10 leaves fresh basil

How to make tomato pasta sauce

Step 1

Add half the olive oil and the garlic to a frying pan on a medium heat. Cook gently for a couple of minutes, avoiding getting any colouring on the garlic, as this will make the whole sauce taste bitter.

Step 2

Add half the basil and cook gently for a couple more minutes.

Step 3

Remove the core from the fresh tomatoes and add them to a food processor.

Step 4

Blitz until the tomatoes are smooth.

Step 5

Add this tomato mixture to the pan with the garlic and add the passata.

Step 6

Leave to simmer for twenty minutes, until reduced and sweet. Season to taste and finish with more fresh basil and the rest of the olive oil.

Step 7

Toss through fresh pasta.

Step 8

Serve and enjoy!

FAQs about tomato pasta sauce

Where does tomato pasta sauce originate from?

The first tomato sauce recipe was written by Italian chef Francesco Leonardi in the Italian cookbook L'Apicio in 1790. Originally known as a love remedy and tomatoes being a food that serves the heart, it was created to replace the pepper preserve in the 16th century.

Known as 'pomodoros' in Italy, this is Italian for the fruit of the gold. Back then, many Italians then started to create their own simple tomato sauces by cutting their tomatoes up and boiling them, and letting them melt and pass through a sieve. They would then let their sauces condense over their fires while mixing in salt and pepper and would then when ready serve it to all their families.

Traditionally now, Italians love to serve a simple tomato sauce through fresh pasta but they are also known for their specific pizza called Mariana, which uses homemade tomato sauce topped with fresh garlic and basil.

How to store and reheat tomato pasta sauce

Due to homemade tomato pasta sauce being a lot fresher than those found in the supermarkets, they tend to last not as long in the fridge. However, provided they are stored correctly, your tomato pasta sauce should last up to 5 days in the fridge.

You can either choose your store fresh tomato sauce in the sterilised glass bottle, or any airtight/sealable Tupperware would work just fine. However, Pasta Evangelists suggest consuming fresh pasta sauces within 2 days after making them, as this is when the sauce's flavours are fresher and therefore, will taste nicer.

However, you can also freeze your fresh tomato pasta sauce by putting your sauce into a freezer bag or airtight container, which can be frozen for up to 6 months. When you want to use it, defrost your sauce at room temperature for a few hours before cooking and check that the sauce has not discoloured at all or has a tangy odor. If all is ok, simply add your fresh pasta and cook as normal on the stove or in the microwave for 30-second intervals until it is warmed to your satisfaction.

Our best tomato pasta sauce recipes

Meatball pasta bake

(Image credit: Future)

1. Meatball pasta bake

Topped with a thick layer of crispy cheese, it is a perfect hearty comfort meal during the winter for all the family to enjoy.

Get the recipe: Meatball pasta bake

Baked ravioli with tomato sauce

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2. Baked ravioli with tomato sauce

This ravioli bake takes ravioli to a new level and will become a family favourite. With its crunchy pecorino topping, this dish is packed with flavour and is smothered in a rich homemade tomato sauce.

Get the recipe: Baked ravioli with tomato sauce

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3. Gnudi with tomato sauce

If you don't know what gnudi is, they are gnocchi-like dumplings made with ricotta cheese instead of potato. Sound amazing right? This dish is a great low-calorie mid-week meal paired with a beautiful homemade tomato sauce that compliments the gnudi perfectly.

Get the recipe: Gnudi with tomato sauce

Spicy chorizo and prawn pasta

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4. Spicy chorizo and prawn pasta

This mouth-watering dish beautifully brings the Spanish flavours of chorizo and prawns together. Simply use Theo's recipe and use your own homemade tomato pasta sauce to make this dish even moreish.

Get the recipe: Spicy chorizo and prawn pasta

Sausage and tomato pasta

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5. Sausage and tomato pasta

This easy pasta dish is the perfect meal for all the family to enjoy. If you are making for your kids and want to get some veggies in, why not try adding in some spinach, Tenderstem broccoli, or peppers?

Get the recipe: Sausage and tomato pasta 

Specialises in Italian cuisine
Theo Randall
Specialises in Italian cuisine
Theo Randall

Theo Randall is a well-known Michelin-star chef who regularly appears on BBC One's Saturday Kitchen as well as an author publishing four successful recipe books including Pasta (2006), My Simple Italian (2015), and The Italian Deli Cookbook (2021), and The Italian Pantry (2022). His passion for food started from a young age when on his family holidays in Europe, where he became inspired by the European way of cooking and dishes and knew a culinary career was destined for him. His career began working as a waiter at Chez Max and after only a few weeks was asked by Max Magarian to work in his kitchen where he spent four years training in classic French cuisine. Then by 1989, Theo joined River Cafe and soon became head chef and under his patronage, it received its first Michelin star. He then went on to launch InterContinental in 2006 delivering delicious rustic Italian food in his prestigious location of No.1 Park Lane. Despite Theo's success, you will find him at most services at the InterContinental.

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Christina Geggus
Junior Food Writer

Christina Geggus is Junior Food Writer at and enjoys writing about lifestyle, food, and recipes. After completing her Master’s in Magazine Journalism at Nottingham Trent University and her undergraduate degree in Communication & Society and Global Studies alongside receiving an NCTJ diploma, Christina has always set her sights on a career in journalism.

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