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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

basic-tomato-sauce-1.jpg basic-tomato-sauce-2.jpg

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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59 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. lydia

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

  3. 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.

  4. Renee

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

  5. M

    I’m curious why you wouldn’t use chopped canned tomatoes instead of whole canned tomatoes. Thanks!

  6. Trish

    Elise – Remember that Lasagna Bolognese recipe that you posted awhile back? That is with out a doubt the best sauce I’ve ever had – homemade or in a restaurant. My husband and I have talked about spending one Saturday making a huge batch of it and then freezing it in serving sizes – it’s lots of work but so worth it. Have a happy new year and keep sending us your great recipes!

    Trish in Omaha, NE (where it is brrrrrrrrrr cold today!!)

  7. nicole marie

    My favorite tomato sauce is a milder version of the all’Arrabiata in Patricia Wells’s Trattoria book. It requires nothing more than mixing olive oil with a few cloves of minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, cooking until the garlic is golden, then adding a can of whole peeled tomatoes that have been run through a food mill and simmering the sauce for 15 minutes. Cooked pasta gets thrown in at the end, along with lots of chopped parsley, and it’s the tastiest thing ever!

    And to M, I find that canned whole tomatoes have the best pulp to liquid ratio, especially if you can get canned Roma or San Marzano tomatoes. Puree tends to be too thick (it turns into bubbling, spitting lava when you try to simmer it!), and chopped tomatoes have too much liquid. I also prefer the texture of tomatoes that have been run through a food mill, as it’s just chunky enough to have body, but makes a very smooth sauce.

  8. Count Zero

    You would usually need to add 1 teaspoon sugar, because the tomatos are sometimes too zetsy. The thing in this recipe that almost cancels out the need for sugar is the Carrots.

    To Carol: The ketchup does the same thing as the tomato paste + carrots, except for one thing: the vinegar. That is the ingredient that strengthens the taste in your sauce. Fans of Tabasco will experience the same strengthening of taste due to the way vinegar affects the dissemination of taste into the taste buds on your tongue :-)

    Enjoy!

  9. isabelle

    I make this sauce in large batches in my 8 qt stock pot, pulse it on a blender to smoothen it up just a tiny bit, and then can it in sanitized bell jars. Much better than keeping store-bought jars of sauce on hand and just as easy. Also a fantastic gift to give, people are always super impressed.

  10. Ellie

    Marvellous work, as always! This sauce looks so good I think I’d forego the pasta, chicken or fish and just ask to have a bowl of it on its own, steaming hot and straight from the skillet!

  11. dave b.

    A recent unfortunate food pairing made me realize you need to have a couple of different basic tomato sauces.

    For years, my favorite tomato sauce has been a recipe from Alton Brown that involved roasting cored/seeded roma tomatoes with garlic, onion, olive oil, and fresh herbs, then running it all through a food mill, and simmering with white wine. You can find the recipe at foodnetwork.com. It’s a rich, thick, flavorful sauce that everyone seems to love.

    So, during the recent holiday season, I decided to make a braciole for Christmas eve supper. (Braciole: flank steak pounded thin, rolled up with stuffing, tied with twine, browned on all sides, and then placed in an oven with tomato sauce to cook through.) Of course, I decided to use my favorite homemade tomato sauce. The result was that the tomato sauce overpowered the taste of the steak and stuffing. I came away from the meal thinking that a simpler, smoother tomato sauce with a little zing (maybe from red pepper?) would have accented the flavor of the steak & stuffing better.

    This sauce looks like an excellent all-purpose sauce and I’m going to give it a try soon.

    On a tangent, is there anything more basic to good cooking than starting with a soffrito (or mirepoix, trinity, etc.)? Whenever I’m just freelancing in the kitchen, I know I can start with one of them, add nearly whatever I want and come up with a dish I would happily serve to guests.

  12. Sean

    Wow — thanks for the link and praise, not necessarily in that order! So, I’m thinking we maybe should have a sauce-off at some point? :-D

  13. barbara

    It is tomato season down here so I’ll be making this to freeze for winter. Happy New Year Elise.

  14. Douglas Weltman

    I found myself using Jamie Oliver’s recipe in his cookbook Jamie’s Dinners (I don’t know if it’s available in the US), then doing some variations on it. I usually pierce a few hot chilies, chop some garlic and add a few basil and parsley stalks to the olive oil at the beginning, and let the flavors infuse the oil over medium-low heat. The chilies add a a very subtle heat to the sauce. I then finely chop an onion, add it to the sauce, let it soften for a few minutes, then add WHOLE tomatoes. The reason for using whole tomatoes is that you don’t want the seeds playing too much of a role in the sauce too early on because they will make things too bitter and it’s best to let the tomatoes cook for a while. After about 20 minutes, I fish out the stalks and chilies, and a portion of the latter can be chopped up and added once again depending on whether or not you want an arrabiata or just regular tomato sauce. After a 15 more minutes or so, the tomatoes will start to disintegrate and release the seeds, at which time one might as well help them along with the back or a spoon or a fork. I usually let this simmer for another hour, as I find most tomato sauces to be too watery without being properly reduced.

    I find that recipes including carrot or celery (such as those by Marcella Hazan) end up having carrot play too prominent a role in the final product and those vegetables change the texture in ways that I don’t like.

  15. Michael Briggs

    I promised myself to follow the recipe exactly as you described it. Needless to say, I couldn’t follow through. I had to add a pinch of sage and another pinch of fennel seeds. I like the deep undertones of the sage and the lively flavor of fennel.

    I was also afraid the sauce was going to get a little too thick, so I added some wine, which helped to meld the competing flavors.

    In the end, the sauce turned out beautifully. As someone suggested earlier, I might very well just serve this one as a hearty Italian zuppa with some crusty garlic bread.

  16. Mark

    Hmmmm…. Onions, carrots, celery… that’s a Mirepoix!

  17. SauceSnob

    Sorry, for a basic tomato sauce, I can’t see using carrots or sugar. (Though, for a non-traditional, non-basic tomoto sauce maybe the carrots and celery, but that’s a totally different flavor).

    The key to not needing either is using good tomatoes to begin with – if they don’t taste good before cooked in the can, they’re going to need extra things such as carrots and sugar (or, god forbid, ketchup). Perhaps I’m just an italian purist, but if you used those ingredients in my family you’d be exiled.

  18. Ian

    I too like to use Jamie Oliver’s recipe, although from his “Naked Chef” recipe book. The reason that I like J.O.’s recipe is because it is close to that of the recipe of an Italian-Canadian friend of mine who always cooks up pasta with tomato sauce for his rather-large family. My friend has a special ingredient: Tumeric (which he calls “saffron” –it took me too long to work out what he was actually referring to). The addition of the tumeric makes his sauce remarkably zesty and I am quickly turning this into a staple for my family as well.

  19. Trig

    I was just about to say that soffritto in Italian is called mirepoix in French when I read the comments and saw that so many of your knowledgeable readers already know that. It’s classic and deserves to be so. Like onion and garlic it’s one of those bases that you start with no idea where it is going to take you. That’s what cooking is about. And your sauce looks great.

  20. Elise

    What great suggestions, thanks everyone! What I like about this recipe is that it works well as a base recipe. I could easily see dressing it up with red wine, fennel seeds, chili, sage, etc. Hadn’t thought about turmeric, but I could see that too.

  21. El Cocinero Loco

    Nicely done.

    I see you used my favorite word. Soffritto. Someone just mentioned my Lasagne Ferrera. Here’s a little tidbit about that Béchemel sauce. Technically speaking it is a simply roux as it’s not actually cooked with a cloved onion, but the Bolognese contains clove and Sofritto which contains an onion. By this logic we arrive that it is indeed a Béchemel. Now here’s the cool part. The reason why I put Parmesean Regiano on the Béchemel layer is a trick I’ve learned. When Parmesean Regiano is cooked in Béchemel it becomes a Mornay, but the Parmesean is also a vital component in a proper Lasagne. Such is the more exactness of Northern Italian cooking

    Roux + Bolognese = Béchemel
    Roux + (Clove, Onion, etc.) = Béchemel
    Bolognese + Parmesean = Lasagne
    Béchemel + Parmesean = Mornay
    Roux + Bolognese + Parmesean = Lasagne Ferrera
    Mornay + Bolognese = Lasagne Ferrera

    I cook everynight and my base sauce at the end of a long day at work is really quite simple, and very much the same as Elises’

    Canned Tomato, Tomato Paste, Olive Oil, Carrots, Onion, Celery, and Bay Leaf. Bay Leaf stablize and Carrot stablize acidity. I mix the paste with Vermouth. If I am adding Beef, Veal, and Pork from another sauce pot I’ll drop a tab of Butter and Pancetta into my Soffritto for smoothness along with the Oil. I cook my Onion and Pancetta first then Carrots, and last Celery. Celery cooked in oil is probably the best smell in the world. Herbs including Bay Lead are added near the end so as to not to realease harsh tasting tannins. I also keep the heat below 170F and around 136F for at least 30 minutes then raise the temperature really high and fast to Pasteurize any enzymes leftover once they are done converting whatever they convert in the sauce to deliciousness.

    Basil mixes with Crushed Red Pepper. Red Pepper mixes with Oregano. Majoram is a type of Oregano. I usually end up with a cooked Putanesca kind of thing going on: Basil, Red Pepper, Majoram (a base, modifier, and accent

    Or I do something like Allspice, Nutmeg, Clove, or Cinnamon instead of Nutmeg or Clove.

    If you want a really spicy sauce use allspice and clove straightforward with no herbs.

    From this we can infer eatting a carrot after having spicy food is like taking an anti-acid tablet only more delicious.

    Celery and Basil both contain androgens which are precursors to steroids. The also enliven our reproductive hormones when we unconciously detect them on other people. These make great date foods.

  22. Linda

    I almost always add wine to my tomato sauces. A favorite uncle of mine who was a fabulous cook taught me to add a tablespoon or so of Herbs de Provence to it and I found it to be a great taste. Maybe it’s the fennel in it.

  23. Kevin E.

    I was making this recipe and in my haste to get it made I started adding in the whole can of tomato paste. Is there a way to thin the recipe down now that I have thickened it?

    I am sure you have all figured it out by now, but this was my first attempt at making sauce of any kind.

  24. El Cocinero Loco

    Herbes de Provence for those who don’t know is a combination of Thyme & Rosemary, Basil & Majoram, Savory, Bay Laurel Leaf.

    Traditional usage makes Thyme prominent. Bayleaf is to reduce acidity and as an aromatic, so don’t use it at to high a temperature or for too long as it could result in harsh tannin exctraction. Cook it less and flavor comes out. Cook it even less and you’ll experience more aroma and less taste. The same is true really for any herb, so keep your heat below 170F until you are ready to do a boil-out about 200F to denature any unwanted cooties.

    Once in a blue moon Lavender flowers are included but purely as an aromatic. Majoram is a selective breed of Oregano so this mixes well in proportion to Basil. Thyme & Rosemary are beautiful together just keep the Thyme as dominant.

    Use the Savory-group to unite the Thyme-group with the Basil-group.

    Thyme & Rosemary 45 minutes
    Basil & Majoram 30 minutes
    Savory & Bayleaf 15 minutes
    (Lavender 5 minutes)

    You can get real creative with these combinations by putting them in different places in a maincourse. Off the cuff here, let’s say we’re going to have steak and potatoes and a gravy.

    1. Pull out a cut of steak cut 1.5″ thick. I use real lean meat because it’s tough and it makes it a challenge to soften up, and that’s fun. Wrap your steak up in some waxpaper and dusted with sea salt and then put into a ziplock bag. Let the waxpaper-salt-steak and sit until it is at least room temperature. I prefer longer. I’ll let it sit on the meat cutting board for a good 3 or 4 hours. The salt and wax will draw proteins out of the meat-center to the surface in much the same way you make prociutto. That way when we sear it on both sides we’ll have something to lock in a flavors with. When its time to broil our steak let’s use Savory and Majoram in the basting. The Savory is good to unify the dish. The Majoram will help bond the steak flavor and out chicory flavors.

    2. Pull out some potatoes or as I like to call them patatas. Wedge them and assemble into a deep dish baking tray with salt and a smidgeon of water. When the time comes to pre-heat the oven for the steak your potatos will gently precook via a steambath. When’s it time to cook our potatoes let’s use Olive Oil and Whey Butter which both have a good high temperature tolerance. Dust your chips with pulverized rosemary and a bit of sea salt.

    3. Let’s choose an Italian chicory for its bitterness. It will compliment the steak and patatas well. It’s usely served with starches and olive oil. If this were my kitchen I’d pick either Radicchio di Verona which is the round bowling ball shaped one, or Radicchio di Treviso looks like a bullet or a cone shape thing. Both sauté well and are sorta redish-maroon adding color variety to a dish. I cook my radicchio underneath my steak with during the broiling process. For me it captures all the juices that might escape otherwise and provides good bedding when dished.

    4. Let’s whip out some spinach. I use my steam cooking double boiler to do the work. Infuse a mix of Thyme and Basil and Bayleaf into the steam bath. Steam cook the Spinach with some garlic and you are done.

    But let’s say you don’t eat steak. Let’s have chicken and rice instead with chicory. Since we are using Herbes de Provence we can make a nice Tapénade and some Asparagus.

    1. I like to sear my chicken in much the same manner as the steak but patted with flour and unsalted butter. Once searing is complete pour in some cheap Chablis such as Carlo Rossi letting it steam cook for a bit along with some Rosemary. From there it can be transferred to a rottisserie or flame broiled with ease.

    2. There are many way to cook asparagus but searing it and letting it steam just a bit is fun. Sear it in the juice and fats from the chicken and some heated olive oil. Savory tastes great with greens. Crushed Red pepper goes well with Basil and Lemon which will be included in the rice. If you want to spice up the oils add three or four seeds. When cooked dish the Chicken atop some diced Parsley. Everyone says Flat Leaf Parsley is the good stuff but I disagree for when it comes to poultry I select Curly Parsley variety. Flat Leaf I leave to sauces.

    3. Cook up some rice in the usual manner, but put Basil in at the end of the rice cooking cycle. Cut your Radicchio into little strips and put it into the rice. Radicchio is and a common acoutrement to tapénade.

    4. A tapénade is pureed black olives, capers, anchovies, lemon juice, and olive oil. Thyme goes well with anchovies, so does Majoram. Thyme & Basil go well with Lemon so dollop this puree atop your rice. If you like it spicy this a perfect compliment to cool down your mouth.

    5. As a last part I like to slice some lemons and cook them up real quick with some bay leaves, and sea salted water to mellow their intensity. I squeeze some fresh lemon juice into a small pan with some Sucrose (white sugar) and heat it until it reaches Soft Balling temperature. I then dish alongside the chicken the lemons and candy them slighty. It’s something different that not too many people do but I eat lemons just like an other fruit.

    Here’s a factoid. Tapéno is another word for capers so you can see where the past-participle derived name Tapénade comes from. Radicchio contains an anti-oxidant known as anthocyanin. It’s the stuff that gives the red color to apples, grapes, oranges, raspberries, and whatnot.

  25. courtney

    Okay, I know I am late, but here is an alternative to carrots and sugar. Baking soda. It nuetralizes some of the acid, without drastically changing the flavor (I tend to get impatient with sugar, and add to much). Plus it is fun as the sauce foams up (just keep stirring and it will go back to normal).

  26. JMM

    I’ve made this recipe several times and it’s always good!

    I’d like to suggest though, to those who are debating carrots vs. sugar – you do have other options available to you as well. I have experimented with a few things which you might also like to try:

    1. soak dates, process in food processor, and add to taste to your sauce (or gravy, however you like to call it :))

    2. use agave instead of sugar

    3. i even experimented with adding a bit of salad dressing – such as a tomato rosemary vinaigrette – with very delicious results

    My favorite, though, is a good balsamic vinaigrette. I shop at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods and they have really good syrupy balsamic vinegar. The kind which is also very yummy drizzled over vanilla ice cream! It adds wonderful flavor and a sweetness to the sauce that is appropriate for some dishes and especially loved by children of all ages. :) Wonderful with meatballs and bucatini…

  27. Chris

    I would second JMM’s remarks above about adding some balsamic, really wonderful flavours and depth are added by it – great recipe(s) and wonderful discussion here – ciao :o)

  28. Mike

    Carol, if I can make a suggestion without offending you. Tomatoes are naturally sweet. Try adding some sweet basil instead of sugar. Both my parents are Italian (my dad is from the old country) and I grew up in a very Italian section of Brooklyn, NY neither have ever used sugar in any of their cooking, besides baked goods. I can always taste when sauce has sugar added to it and it tastes so unnatural to me. I just cringe when someone puts sugar in their sauce.

  29. Elise

    Hi Mike, I think it really depends on the sauce. Sometimes you make a sauce and it’s just a tad bit too acidic. A dash of sugar will help balance out the acidity.

  30. Beth Ann

    My teenage son and I love to cook together (I know, I’m blessed), and he makes a fine from-scratch red sauce. He ventured to make manicotti last night but thought of a “clove” of garlic as the whole head.

    We have a huge pan remaining (which is actually still darn good), but I wondered if you had any suggestions for rectifying a sauce gone awry. Great cooks seem to have learned well from their “mistakes.” Thanks in advance! ~Beth Ann

  31. Deb

    I agree, you don’t need sugar (or orange bits of carrots! or fennel seed? gasp!) if you use good quality whole tomatoes (plum or Roma tomatoes) and enough sweet onions. Also, cooking slow and long–at least an hour, two if there is meat. The long simmer is the Italian-American secret to removing the acidic taste.

    Tomato “gravy” in Philadelphia is onion, garlic, olive oil, whole tomatoes, paste, basil, maybe wine, maybe bay leaves, maybe a bit of sugar. That’s it. (But, in a rush, we do thing ‘merican, sometimes LOL.;)

    Oh, to the person who asked about crushed tomatoes–whole & put through the grinder makes a nice textured sauce.

  32. Fast Eddie

    Since it’s such a versatile starter is it possible/advisable to make a mirepoix and store it in batches so you can just grab some from the freezer and go? Seems it would be a great way to start after a long hard day at work but how do you store it?

  33. graham

    I followed the recipe, result was EXCELLENT! Thank you very much for posting! :) cheers

  34. Tom

    You might want to consider omitting the celery and carrot as well as the sugar. You should also cook the onions down to an almost carmelized state before adding the wet ingredients. Instead of using sugar, or carrots increase your basil by 1/2tsp, and try a little fennel seed. These two herbs will help to sweeten the sauce as well as take away the bitterness.

  35. Uncle Ray

    My daughter used this recipe today, looks like we have an abundance of tomatoes with the garden exploding with fresh Romas. Not such a bad thing. This is our first stab at fresh sauce.

  36. Persis

    Elise, which tomato variety would you recommend for a basic tomato sauce? We’ve tried camparis and romas.

    I think plum (roma) tomatoes are most often used for sauces, but we’ll use any of the tomatoes we grow. I think the trick is that if you are going to make tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes, you should do it when tomatoes are in season (late summer) and are full of flavor. Otherwise it’s probably better to used canned tomatoes that are picked and canned at the height of the season. ~Elise

  37. Emile

    Some remarks :

    - “herbes de Provence” is a mix of herbs, as mentionned upper, including also “serpolet” (I have not found the English word; it is close to thyme)

    - the Tapenade (with no accent) do not include lemon juice nor olive oil (it is already greasy !). Only for preservation you can cover it with some miilimeters of oil.
    It can be made with green olives, too.
    Kevin E., you’re right, “tapéno” (or tapena, depending on the way of writing) meens caper in the Provencal language.

    - in Provence we like to use the basil fresh, the cooking destroys the aroma. Try this : when your tomato sauce is hot, pour it (on pasta or watever you like), drop chopped (not with an electric grinder!) or crushed basil, and smell !!!

    - the Roux is a basis for sauces, made of flour dissolved in a hot grease (generally butter).
    If you add milk (or cream), it becomes a Béchamel.
    You can flavor your Bechamel with nutmeg, for exemple, but a Béchamel (also called “Roux blanc”, white roux) is only made of butter, flour and milk/cream. In a poor version, use water instead of milk. In some versions, use broth (or, personnal trick, the juice of a mushrooms can).
    A Mornay sauce is a Béchamel in which you add, at the end, cheese, usually Emmental or Comté (Parmigianno or Granna is very good, too). Tip: try with Cantal cheese ! More creative (is it still a Mornay ?) with Roquefort or another blue cheese.

    Emile, from Provence, France.
    Dear American friends, thank you very much for making our heritage (and our neighbour’s) live !

  38. Erin F.

    Thank you for this simple, delicious recipe. I was given what were called “sauce tomatoes” by a neighbor (possibly Romas) and I felt compelled to sauce them, but I’m not much of a cook. However, between the tomatoes and fresh basil and parsley from my Dad’s garden, this came together very quickly and nicely. The changes I made, mainly due to ingredients on hand, were:
    1/4 cup homemade spicy tomato juice instead of the tomato paste and the celery.
    1/4 cup cabernet sauvignon to deepen the flavor.
    Possibly used more onion than called for; I didn’t know if my onion was medium or not!

    I did not peel or seed the tomatoes and left everything thick and chunky. I liked it and so did my sweetie. Thank you!

    -Erin F., Columbus, Ohio

  39. sandra

    YUMMY! this is a great recipe. One thing I did have to modify is that I used about 3 tablespoons of the tomato paste because my sauce was too watery. The paste really helped thicken the consistency, other than that this was delicious with penne pasta!

  40. Julie

    In lieu of sugar, try some fresh mint added to the sauce — it creates a nice sweet flavor that you will not be able to place if you don’t know what it is and sweetens the sauce nicely without having to use carrots or sugar.

  41. beck

    I was not very impressed by this recipe. I found it a little on the tasteless side. I would probably never use it again. But I think its great that you put it out there for everyone! Maybe it because I didn’t spice it up with anything. You should recomment that people do so. Anyways,

    Thanks!

    I had a fun night making it :)

    Sounds to me like you needed to add more salt and pepper. ~Elise

  42. Kim

    Hi Elise! It’s December, but I harvested 2 lb. of tomatoes today, and threw together my version of basic tomato sauce (which is similar to yours). My question is – do you ever can them? I have about a quart, and I’m trying to figure out if I should can them, or just throw them into ziplock bags and toss them into the freezer (like I do everything else). Thanks! – Kim

    We do not can our tomatoes, mostly because we don’t grow enough to make it worthwhile. We eat every tomato as it ripens. ~Elise

  43. Lee

    My Italian grandmother and mother “sweetened” tomatoes with a tiny pinch of baking soda. Sounds weird, I know, but it works. Don’t worry about the bubbling-that just lasts a second.

    Thanks for bringing that up! Baking soda works because it is a base, which counteracts the acid of the tomatoes. Can only use a small amount though, just to take the edge off of the acidity. Otherwise it affects the taste. ~Elise

  44. Dennis

    A more basic, simpler sauce:

    Open a couple of cans of good Italian tomatoes (San Marzano or from Sicily). Take out the tomatoes and open them: let the juice drain out and push out most of the seeds; remove the stem ends. When you have a bowl full of that pure tomato pulp, plunge your hands in and start squeezing — the idea is to have smaller pieces. Put the results in a pot (drain first if too juicy; you want to make this with pulp) with some olive oil and kosher salt and let simmer until it becomes a sauce. You might need to add more salt or a pinch of sugar. And that’s it: no garlic no onion, parsley, whatever. All of those are wonderful things on their own and in other sauces, but this sauce is tomato essence.

  45. Zach Thomas

    I like to simply use a large can of diced or crushed tomatoes – simmer for as long as you can stand with a quarter cup of olive oil, salt (pepper at the end), browned garlic or even just powder, a couple tablespoonsful of white wine or sherry, a tablespoon of sugar and whatever herbs are at hand – dried can be nice as it blends and dissappears while still leaving flavor.

    I would never make a pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes – the acid and “vegetable-y” flavor are too strong, the cooking and aging from canning makes them much milder.

  46. Krystle

    I made this a couple of days ago. I guess I can see what some of the other commenters mean about it being a little zingy or acidic, depending on the kind of tomato used. Mine was a little tart, but that obviously didn’t stop it from tasting fantastic, as I topped two bowls of pasta with it for lunch today! The only thing I had trouble with was getting it to thicken. Right after it was prepared, it was still a little runny. A day in the refrigerator has fixed that problem, though (and made it taste even better, in my opinion). I agree with a previous comment that you could almost pour it in a bowl and eat it! Thanks!

  47. Rossella

    Can I suggest that you do not consider fresh basil as totally interchangeable with dried? the latter is rather “mint-y” and it adds a funny “toothpaste” backtaste to the whole thing.
    Oregano is very popular in basic sauce too but it is much less mint-y and richer in aroma, especially when it goes on pizza (even though – to be frank – most Italians use crude extra quality tomato sauce for pizzas, seasoned with salt, extra virgin olive oil and oregano).
    Hope this helps!

  48. Rebecca

    As to the sweetness sugar-carrots debate:

    Everyone’s suggested things from agave to baking soda to add sweetness and cut the acidity, and I’m shocked no one has mentioned honey! Honey breaks down wonderfully in a sauce and adds a nice smoothness, along with sweetness. My mother and I have always used honey in our sauces. A tablespoon or two of honey will finish off a quart of sauce easily.

  49. Karen

    Great and simple recipe! I used organic canned diced tomatoes and used quite a bit more tomato paste then called for because I like the tangy-ness of it. I also added almost a whole package of sliced mushrooms, about 1/2 of a diced orange pepper and a lot of crushed red pepper flakes. It made a thick and chunky sauce. I served this over spaghetti squash for a very healthy and scrumptious meal! Next time I will for sure double the recipe.

  50. Chris

    First:
    Its all about the tomatoes you use.
    San Marzano, San Marzano, San Marzano imported from Italy.

    You must use canned whole peeled san marzano tomatoes imported from Italy. If not, you’re not making tomato sauce, you’re just having play time in the kitchen.

    The recipe is fantastic! I didn’t use the tomato paste and it still came out fantastic. If you were going to use the tomato paste, use the tomato paste in a tube from Italy, way better than the canned American stuff.

    No need for sugar, carrots gave it just the right sweetness. Plus they make it healthier.

    If its too acidic, its because you didn’t use the beautiful San Marzano tomatoes!

    I’m going to try what someone had suggested, adding a little red pepper to the mirepoix.

    Thanks again for the fantastic recipe!

  51. Katie A

    Elise – I’ve joined the army of backyard gardeners who are growing tomatoes. I have a huge harvest this year as I suspect others may have as well. Can you suggest a easy way to process/freeze them for use this winter? The term “canning” always scares me and I wonder if there is a simply way to freeze fresh tomatoes without a huge production. Thoughts?

    Thank you!

    Great question. What we did with our excess tomatoes this summer is make canned tomato salsa. Canning tomatoes isn’t that hard, you just need to add a little extra acid. There are plenty of instructions online if you search. As for freezing, I think cooked tomatoes freeze much better than raw tomatoes. Raw tomatoes don’t freeze well at all. So, if I were to freeze tomatoes, I would score them, cook them in simmering water, remove the peels, perhaps blend them or chop them, and then seal them in usable portion containers (with enough headspace for expansion if using glass), and then freeze them. ~Elise

  52. Hyma

    Lovely….it was just perfect even with the limited ingredients I had! thanks so much for the recipe…

  53. Hyma

    and yes…i forgot to add…I am never ever going to buy tomato sauce from the stores again:-)!!!!

  54. Tara

    I have developed an allergy to tomatoes and really miss sauces like these. I was considering making a roasted red pepper sauce that is similar. Any suggestions as how to replace the tomatoes for red peppers?

    Check out this romesco sauce. It’s not as liquidy as the tomato sauce, but you can use it with pasta much like you would a pesto. ~Elise

  55. Sam

    Have my dough rising for a pizza and have the sauce on the stove , it smells sooo good thanks for the great recipe

  56. Rachel

    Can you make this ahead of time or in big batches and store it for later. I was just wondering how long it would keep in the fridge.

    It should keep about a week in the fridge. You can also freeze it. Just leave enough head room (at least an inch and a half) in the jar to account for expansion when the sauce freezes. ~Elise

  57. Jackie Johnsen

    Freezing Tomatoes:from my experience, no matter how you do it, they are always better than the grocery store brand canned tomatoes. (Please note: I use these tomatoes for soups, casseroles, hamburger chili and Sloppy Joes, I’ve never done a straight tomato sauce from frozen tomatoes). I do it the easiest way. I buy a box or two from the farm stand, cut out the core and any spots, put them in freezer bags (skin on). When I need them I run them under cold water to remove the skin and use in my recipe. The texture is gone, but the flavor remains. I only use these for sauces where tomato is an addition, not the star. Sometimes I fish pieces out to cut up more. It may be time to try this sauce from frozen tomatoes since it’s the middle of winter and I’m so excited about using my new Kitchen Aid. The tomato seeds have never been an issue but maybe this time I’ll use a food mill. AND next fall, I’ve got to try freezing a batch of tomato sauce. Elise, thanks for the great recipes and inspiration!

  58. Sarah

    Thanks! Used this in the Baked Ziti recipe it was great!

  59. Sébastien

    I’ve had some experience with sauce making, and trust me, DITCH THE JUICE. Pour your cans in the strainer, squish them and give them a shake so you clear that bulk of juice. I used to keep all the juice – it took an hour and a half simmering to get any kind of “saucey” consistency in my sauce, and then I just had to scoop the excess juice from the top because it was so watery. You need to reduce the juice to just what is contained in the flesh.

    Another thing: don’t shred the tomatoes with your fingers. Why? Because you can’t. Put your tomatoes in the blender and shred them bit by bit whilst stirring in between, and you’ll automatically get a good consistency in your sauce.

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