Tomato sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2–3 garlic cloves, crushed (optional)
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 lb/450 g ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste, blended with ⅔ cup water
few fresh oregano sprigs
1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, if using, celery, and bay leaf, and gently sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
2. Stir in the tomatoes with the blended tomato paste. Season with pepper to taste and add the oregano. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20–25 minutes, until the tomatoes have completely collapsed. If liked, simmer for an additional 20 minutes to give a thicker sauce.
3. Discard the bay leaf and the oregano. Transfer to a food processor and process until a chunky puree forms. If a smooth sauce is preferred, pass through a fine nonmetallic strainer. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Reheat and use as required.

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