Oven-cooked sauce for three easy meals

7:30 pm on 21 May 2018
Meatballs in a spicy sauce; one of three suggested uses for this oven-baked tomato sauce.

Meatballs in a spicy sauce; one of three suggested uses for this oven-baked tomato sauce. Photo: Georgina McLean

I love home-cooked dinners but I don’t have lots of time in the evenings to spend in the kitchen. So over the years I’ve adapted a basic tomato sauce recipe for pasta as a base for three quick meals. It’s cooked in the oven until it’s rich and deep-flavoured, and extra herbs and spices are added depending on the meal. It’s endlessly adaptable and will keep in the fridge for at least three days.

Serves 6



Two large onions, sliced finely
Four cloves of garlic (at least), sliced
Three or four 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
Tomato puree (optional)
2 tbsp Salt and pepper
Herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme or a mix) - about 1tsp
Olive or sunflower oil 1tbsp



Pre-heat the oven to around 180 degrees /gas mark 4.
Start with the casserole dish on the stove and heat the oil, add the chopped onions and fry until soft, then add the garlic and saute another five minutes.
Add all the other ingredients, put the lid on the casserole dish, and cook in the oven for about an hour.
Check after 30 minutes to see if it needs some water added.

The meals, each with two servings 

Meatballs in spicy sauce 
In a casserole dish, heat a little more oil, add a chopped onion or shallot and two or three home-made or store-bought meatballs per person. Fry until the meatballs are browned. Add up to a third of the tomato sauce, a teaspoon of paprika and as much or as little chilli or cayenne as you like. Cook, covered, in the oven, at 180 degrees /gas mark 4, for about 40 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through. Good with mashed potato.

Chicken casserole
Starting with a casserole dish on the top of the stove, saute chicken drumsticks in a little oil until they’re browned, add chopped mushrooms and sliced carrots or any other vegetable. Add another third of the tomato sauce and more herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme or a mix). Add a little more water and cook, covered, in the oven at 200 degrees / gas mark 6 until the chicken is cooked through (about 40 minutes). Serve with rice or couscous.

The quickest one of all! To the last of the sauce, add more seasoning (if it needs it) and a few olives, and heat in the oven or on the stove. Serve on pasta, with some parmesan.


Georgina McLean is a Senior Digital Journalist at RNZ.


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