Cut each whole canned tomato in half, remove seeds and juice, roughly chop into chunks, and set aside. Set aside any remaining sauce in the cans.
Heat a medium pan with the extra-virgin olive oil and the garlic (if using) over medium-low heat.
Add in the onion, and gently stir-fry it together with the garlic for about 5 minutes. Cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic golden, then add in the tomatoes. Depending on your taste, discard the clove at this stage or when the sauce is cooked.
Add in a couple of basil leaves and a bay leaf (or a pinch of sugar), season with sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper to taste, and gently cook all the ingredients for a further 5 minutes.
Pour in the reserved juices from the cans. Add 1/3 cup (80 ml) of water in one of the cans, and pour it over the sauce.
Cover the pan with a lid, and cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
The sauce is ready when it reaches a nice creamy but still chunky texture, and has just the right balance of sweetness and savoury when you taste it.
Remove the sauce from the heat, add in the remaining fresh basil leaves, adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve with your favourite pasta.
How to store: place the tomato sauce in airtight sterilized glass jars in the fridge for up to 1 week, or freeze into portions in freezer-friendly containers for up to 6 weeks