Classic Slow-Cooked Oregano Tomato Sauce


by Dominic Franks from @DomInTheKitchen

For me, oregano is the taste of Italy.  I think of classic dishes such a fresh homemade pizza with a wonderfully rich, slow-cooked tomato sauce that has been infused with oregano.  Or a grilled fish with a lemon, olive oil and oregano sauce, or a fabulously tasty stew of meatballs with tomato sauce and spaghetti.  Simple, clean and fresh but with a depth of flavour that is unmistakably Italian. One of the things that I love most about oregano is that it’s one of the only herbs that has the same taste profile whether it’s fresh or dry which means that it works in all your dishes if you’re fortunate enough to grow your own, or simply have it dried.

In terms of usage, the general rule of thumb is that one teaspoon of dried herbs is the equivalent of one tablespoon of fresh herbs. The drying process both shrinks the fresh leaves and gives the herbs a more intense flavour, so not as much is needed in recipes. I use both fresh and dried herbs at the beginning of a recipe as they create a wonderful depth of flavour, but I would only ever sprinkle fresh herbs at the end of a recipe. It adds a freshness to the dish and compliments the flavour of the sauce, whereas dried herbs would not do this and leave a sharp taste in the dish which may not be desired.

Below is my recipe for a classic slow-cooked tomato sauce which has oregano at its heart.  It’s a wonderfully versatile dish that can be used in multiple recipes and shows off one of my favourite herbs at its absolute best.

Kitchen tools required:
Burwell self-watering potted herb keepers
Cambridge Herb & Spice Carousel

Prep:  5 mins

Cooking time: 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Serves: 8-12


  • 1/2 medium onion – finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic – finely grated
  • one teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • one teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 pint of veg stock
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon tomato puree
  • a dash of white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • a pinch of sugar

To make the tomato sauce, sauté the onions in a pan with a little olive oil until they begin to soften.  A medium heat is good here as you don’t want them to burn.  Stir in the garlic and half the fresh and all the dry oregano and let the onions cook gently until they begin to colour – another 4 mins should do it.

Pour in the tomatoes, then re-fil the tins with stock and pour that in too. Then add the puree, balsamic vinegar, white wine, sugar and season well. Let the whole thing come to a boil, then turn down the heat to the very lowest and let it gently plop away for at least two hours.  It should reduce by half, if not more. Stir in the remining fresh oregano at the end. Let is cool before you use it.  Serve as a sauce for pizza, pasta, lasagne or with meatballs.

Tip: Keep the sauce in an air-tight container and it will keep for a week in the fridge.

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