Fast Tomato Sauce

MAKES: 4 servings 1 enough for 1 pound of pasta

TIME: 20 minutes

This is among the most basic and useful pasta sauces and one of those staples, like vinaigrette, that is too easy not to make yourself. The main recipe uses basic pantry ingredients and is familiar to just about everyone, but the variations can get pretty wild (try the Peanut Tomato Sauce, for example). This sauce works tossed with any pasta or noodle, for pizza, or as an accent to other cooked foods like grain, tofu, eggs, or vegetables. Skip the Parmesan to make this vegan.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter

1 medium onion, chopped

One 24- to 32-ounce can tomatoes, drained and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan or other cheese (optional)

Chopped parsley or fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Put the olive oil in a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break up and the mixture comes together and thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and immediately toss with pasta (garnish with cheese or an herb if you like) or use in other dishes. Or cover and refrigerate for up to several days (reheat gently before serving).