Basic Tomato Sauce

A good tomato sauce is the foundation for so many wonderful dishes – pizza, pasta, chicken, and fish. Here is a recipe for a basic tomato sauce that starts with a soffritto of onions, carrots, and celery cooked in a little olive oil, to which garlic, tomatoes and seasonings are added. Simple and delicious. The sauce can be dressed up with mushrooms, sausage, olives, wine, and all manner of vegetables. For a tantalizing version of a tomato-based sauce check out Sean’s sauce over at Hedonia. What’s your favorite tomato sauce recipe?

Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 2 1/2 cups of sauce.


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot or 1/2 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small stalk of celery, including the green tops, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, including the juice, or 1 3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1 Heat olive oil in a large wide skillet on medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and parsley. Stir to coat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened and cooked through.

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2 Remove cover and add the minced garlic. Increase the heat to medium high. Cook for garlic for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, including the juice and shredding them with your fingers if you are using canned whole tomatoes. Add the tomato paste and the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered until thickened, about 15 minutes. If you want you can push the sauce through a food mill, or blend it with an immersion blender, to give it a smooth consistency.

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Showing 4 of 61 Comments

  • Carol

    I was always taught to use a touch of sugar with all my tomato (sauce/soup/etc) recipes, so I include a dollop of ketchup in all my cooked tomato recipes. It just strengthens the flavour, for some reason……Just a suggestion.

  • lydia

    In my part of the world (Rhode Island), they call this “gravy”, not “sauce”! Go figure.

  • Anonymous

    This is something I love to make in the summer, when the fresh tomatoes need to be used before they go bad. I agree, Sean’s sauce looks great, and so does yours. In my view, garlic and fennel are two of the most essential ingredients, and I guess basil is pretty high up there too. I have a friend who puts grated carrots in his sauce, then cooks for a long time. The carrots dissolve into the sauce but give it a delicious sweetness.

  • Renee

    This sounds good. I like sauce recipes with vegetables and without sugar!

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