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

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • 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 Gently cook the onion, carrot, celery, and parsley: 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.

2 Add garlic: Remove cover and add the minced garlic. Increase the heat to medium high. Cook for garlic for 30 seconds.

3 Add tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, salt, pepper, then simmer: 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.

Optional, purée for smooth sauce: If you want you can push the sauce through a food mill, or purée it in a blender or with an immersion blender, to give it a smooth consistency.

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Basic Tomato Sauce

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Showing 4 of 65 Comments

  • Gary Zee

    Carrots and celery but no oregano in a pizza sauce….hmmm……… This is more of a heavy cooked sauce recipe for pasta. I stopped cooking my sauce because it cooks on the pizza. Also, basil is too strong for a generic sauce.
    Here’s my no-cook I’ve been using for years and it’s very fresh and quick:
    1 14 oz. can tomatoes whole or diced, drained
    2 tbls. oregano
    1 tbls. olive oil
    3-4 or more pressed garlic
    1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper
    ~1/4 tsp. granulated onion
    pinch of salt
    pinch of sugar
    tiny splash of red wine vinegar
    Combine all in a bowl. Use an immersion blender to puree and you’re done.

  • Art

    Remember when you are cooking the onions to “sweat” them for 15-25 minutes. Then add the carrots and celery. Then Sweat the mixture to concentrate the flavors. After that you add the tomato paste and cook it into the mixture to allow the “paste-y” taste to be cooked out of the sauce. Then add the seasoning and cook that for 4-5 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Alas you add the canned tomatoes and bring to a boil, then simmer til sauce and oil have combined. This is the key, the sauce and the oil have to cook down and combine, this is how you know it is ready.

  • Jennifer

    Can you can this sauce?

  • Sébastien

    ^ I’m sorry, but my comment was off. Here’s where I’m at now.

    Don’t leave the tomatoes in the boiling water that separates the skin or the cold water that stops them from cooking themselves into a mush for more than the few seconds it takes for them to do their job
    Crush the skinned fresh tomatoes in a bowl
    Soften them 15 minutes before blending
    Blend separate quantities to achieve a puree and some chunks
    Roast garlic in the oven
    Cook a “mirepoix” of carrots, celery and onions cut in small chunks about the same size on low heat to avoid ending up with bitter vegetables, add celery first then carrots then onions.
    Simmer the sauce for about two hours very slowly to develop the flavour and get the consistency to “saucey”
    Add dried herbs towards the end
    *Add sugar and salt to the mirepoix and to the sauce, and adjust according to your taste, just don’t neglect them, especially the salt

    Consider quitting the preparation of fresh tomato sauces, as plain tomatoes are beautiful produce with a healthy skin.

  • kaybee

    This was absolutely delicious! I’m so glad I found this, this recipe is perfect! :)

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